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Ryan 'Rango' Prosker

"60% of the time it works 100% of the time."

0 · 571 views · located in Tokyo, Japan

a character in “Immortal Ties”, originally authored by Quakernuts, as played by RolePlayGateway

Description

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Ryan ‘Rango’ Prosker.....................................Guardian’s Charge
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“They’ve really phoned it in on the aviation training. Getting up in the air takes several weeks, but landing is just a simple crash course.”

...ImageAge.......28......................D.O.B.........October 15th, 1987
Origin.... United States...............Sexuality....Heterosexual

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I. ..A D . H O M I N E M



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        A S P E C T U S
        5'9 | Brown eyes | Brown Hair


        Ryan isn’t an imposing figure, with a smaller stature of 5’9 and weighing in at only 165 lbs, he lacks the musculature brimming from most of his friends. This isn’t to say that he’s out of shape, and on several occasions has presented a strength that many people don’t associate with him, only that his body doesn’t seem to represent what he’s physically capable of, giving off the air of the weak kid when surrounded by military grunts. In many other forms, Ryan is your stereotypical military lifer. He has short brown hair, dark brown eyes, leathery skin and more than a few scars both from training accidents and combat. He is often viewed as a ‘small tough guy’ by those who don’t know him, his initial appearance giving off the impression that he’s someone who likes to act stronger than he actually is. They would be wrong, but it’s simply an unfortunate side effect of how Ryan looks.

        When in the pilot’s seat, Ryan wears his designated gear with helmet. Military regulations and all that jazz. When he’s not in his Black Hawk, and he’s not being chastised for being out of uniform, Ryan likes to wear the standard green jumpsuit, unzipped and tied around his waist so that from the waist up you see a white muscle shirt that has long since stopped being white as evidence of several years of maintenance have appeared. Typically speaking, you can also catch Ryan wearing a cowboy hat from time to time, although he mainly wears it as a joke to the rest of his squadron.

        Casually, Ryan is a firm believer in wearing something comfortable over something that looks nice. He doesn’t want to suffer every time he goes out the door, so you can often find him in loose fitting jeans or slacks, a comfortable t-shirt or polo, and an array of different jackets that range from leather to rain to plain gaudy. When he’s out on the town, he’ll wear his cowboy hat if there’s people who will get the reference from him, otherwise he sticks to regular baseball caps or even the occasional bandana. One thing you’ll never see him wear are glasses of any kind, often associating them with ‘the potential to ruin his career’.




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        P E R S O N A
        Self-Reliant | Emotionally Closed | Quick Witted | Impulsive

        Ryan is a joker, plain and simple. Quick with a tale that leads to a laugh, or a simple one-off pun that brings the room to groans, Ryan is never without some sort of light-hearted gimmick that he can use at a moment’s notice. He’s a lovable guy that somehow never manages to cross that line of what’s considered an acceptable joke...or at least, he knows how to gauge an audience to determine what’s acceptable. His sense of humor covers all spectrums, but he knows when to hold some jokes back. His smile is contagious and his presence brings some life to parties. Despite his overall appeal to people as the ‘bringer of good times’, he doesn’t like to be the center of attention. Instead he likes to come in, do this thing, and fade as someone else takes the spotlight. All with a knowing smile and an array of jokes should the mood need to be elevated once more.

        Underneath this joker lifestyle, this ‘funny guy’ persona, is someone who cares a lot for the people around him, even the ones who don’t necessarily know who he is. He’s always the first guy to try and stop a fight, and the last one home after a night of drinking. He’s become the nearly permanent designated driver if you will, with his desire to make sure everyone walks home happy and safe overcoming such things as personal safety or physical limits. Some could consider this to be an almost pathological need to have people like him, a psychological shortcoming that could lead to self destruction...they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.

        Digging even further down, beneath the caring and funny man that is portrayed to the world at large is someone huddled in a corner straining to reach the light that shines above him. Ryan isn’t a broken man, mentally or physically, but he’s had his fair share of problems that have shaped him into the person he is today. He doesn’t like being alone, he doesn’t like being ignored, and he doesn’t like being forgotten. He doesn’t get angry, but remembers transgressions and holds grudges for very long periods of time. He won’t lash out in anger, but he will lash out in the defense of another without thinking of the consequences. He has a reoccurring problem of feeling like a dead man living a life that wasn’t his to begin with, and instead of filling that void with alcohol or drugs, he fills it with adrenaline and the euphoria of making people laugh and enjoy themselves. It should also be noted that while he's a great listener and does his best to sympathize with people's problems, not many can recollect him every being vulnerable himself when it comes to the emotional department. He doesn't talk about his feelings very often unless it's for a joke or to make a point about something valuable. He doesn't open himself up to much, causing some people to wonder just how damaged he really is on the inside.

        In short, Ryan is a joking adrenaline junkie who puts others before himself in an effort to feel alive sometimes at the potential expense of his own life...ironically. He’s a great friend to have in any situation, a good guy, and sometimes a reckless defender of anyone around him.




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Piloting (Helicopter)..If it has rotors, Ryan can probably fly it.

People Person..Loves to be around people and is good in a crowd.

Quick Wit..Sharp comebacks or hasty escapes are a breeze.



Reactionary..Act first, think of a way out later.


Anti-Social Anxiety..Can't stand to be alone

Adrenaline Junkie..Needs that rush to feel alive





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II. ... I M M O R T A L I S . M O R T A L E





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        A C T U M .T E M P U S


        Ryan Prosker was born to a couple of parents who seemed more interested in his accomplishments than his actual well being. These are the people who literally kept a list of what Ryan had been able to do for his entire life, going as far as to make note of his first words and when he learned to walk, not as a mementos, but to compare against other kids. As he grew up, these were used as shaming moments 90% of the time. To say that his relationship with his parents was strained would be putting it mildly, and Ryan never quite saw eye to eye with them right from the moment he was able to more or less think for himself. When a lot of the conversations started with “You only did x in y amount of time, did you know *insert name here* did it in half the time?”, it was hard for Ryan to really care what his parents thought of him. No matter what he did, if he wasn’t the best at it, he simply wasn’t good enough.

        In some ways, this pushed him to better himself. Through his parents rigid adherence to their ‘First place is the only place to be’ mentality, Ryan didn’t just do well in school, he excelled. He joined nearly every sport, several clubs, had several groups of ‘friends’ to hang out with, but none of it was him. That was what Ryan thought anyways. Everything he did was at the ever present and often brutal pushing of his parents. He hated playing football, couldn’t stand to be in the Drama class, and had a hard time figuring out Calculus so his parents brought in a tutor who forced the knowledge into him over the course of a couple of weeks. It was the equivalent of going to school only to come home and do more school. On top of this, he was expected to have a vibrant social life. He was berated for not studying if he was out with friends, he was berated for not building his social network if he was studying. It was literally a no win situation for him, and despite several dozen massive arguments over the years, his parents either refused to acknowledge the pressure they were putting on him, or simply didn’t care. He wasn’t a son to them, he was a legacy to be built and molded as they saw fit.

        Needless to say, Ryan entered a pretty deep depression by the time he was 15, forced to smile and be a ‘great kid’ through everything. Eventually someone did care enough to notice the motions he was being put through, and he found his way in front of a psychiatrist who diagnosed him. After having the psychiatrist himself tell his parents, who feigned the supportive couple in front of the man, his mom and dad blatantly blamed Ryan for his own state and refused to get him the drugs. This all culminated on his graduation night where, after an entire night of listening to his parents blame him for being edged out of valedictorian, claiming his date wasn’t pretty enough to be seen with him, and essentially making the event unbearable, nearly drank himself to death at the after party.

        At the hospital, after they had pumped his stomach and brought him back from the brink, his parents once again pretended to be the loving and caring people that they wanted people to believe they were. The moment they were alone, the barrage of the expected blaming statements were thrown at Ryan. How could he do something so stupid? Did he realize just how this made him and, by extension, them look? This was obviously his failure to control himself. Ryan didn’t argue, didn’t even say a word to the entire thing. He sat there and let them unload on him until finally they tired themselves out throwing him under the bus and left.

        The moment he was able to be discharged and returned to his parents, Ryan went to his room and packed his bags. Without so much as a goodbye, he left his parent’s house and went straight to a military recruitment center. One might think that going from one place where your life is completely controlled and ordered around by another to quite literally another place that does the same thing would be insane, right? It was Ryan’s thinking that it couldn’t possibly be any worse than his parents, and in some ways he was right. Besides, he mainly wanted to do one thing and one thing only.

        He wanted to fly.

        Sure, he could have gotten an aviation license and flown commercial or anything of the sort, but that wasn’t for Ryan. He needed to feel alive, and flying a 747 would get old real fast, basically a moving office cubicle. Another thing that tempted him to this path was the chance to reinvent himself. He needed to shed off everything that he was, and become the person he wanted to be. What he became is the person you see now, the joker, the care bear, the adrenaline junkie. His parents always taught him to be better, to be smart and strong and self reliant. He had to be able to do things himself. Well in a way they helped him because he managed to save himself.

        During his time with the military, he became a helicopter pilot with the HSM-46 “GrandMaster” Helicopter Squadron before being formally recognized for his piloting ability and being assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment two years ago. He was assigned the callsign of ‘Rango’ from some movie about a gecko sheriff with a mouth and a knack for getting into and out of trouble using his wits and gift of gab. He earned himself lifelong friends, worked hard and finally ended up doing something he actually wanted to do for a change.

        Currently he's on leave as he's been informed that his father is on his death bed in a high tech hospital in Japan under going some experimental surgery in an attempt to prolong his life. He was asked by a family friend to be there just in case it didn't work, and Ryan agreed if only to have some closure on the matter.




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                  ( OOC )

                  FACE CLAIM: Josh Hartnett
                  HEX CODE: #AE0202
                  PORTRAYED BY: Quakernuts
                  CS CREATED BY: Epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: CMT

                  DISCLAIMER: This sheet uses
                  code written by Epimetheus, with
                  portions of her work inspired by
                  Verix. All credit goes to them.
                  _( ASSOCIATED )
                  ..words and phrases

                  “Now isn’t the time to second guess our decisions,
                  that time comes later when we wake up to some naked
                  chick who’s about as pretty as Oscar is.” ~ Ryan,
                  Party time with the squad
                  _(
                  MISC )

                  N/A

━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

So begins...

Ryan 'Rango' Prosker's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Teruki Satou Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Cara Chung Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Kohta Honda Character Portrait: Aera Lee Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza Character Portrait: La Verne Caron Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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#, as written by Cloud
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CHAPTER ONE: THE BEGINNING
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Date: Evening, 1st April, 2017
Location: Tokyo City, Japan
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xxxOnce, before Tokyo had been given its name, before tall spires of metal dominated the horizon and light polluted the sky, one could see the stars. They say it was the gods who wove constellations into the otherwise blank expanse of night sky; exposing pinpricks of light to tell stories of legends that would transcend time. Yet, as civilisation grew ever skywards, electric lights began to drown out the natural illumination of the night sky. There are still those who remember centuries long gone, whose gaze at the night sky and remember a time when it was only clouds that interrupted their view. The constellations had changed since they were young, shifting across the Earth’s sky as time flowed forward. Yet, more than one could still take comfort in the beauty of it.

xxx “A shame really.” The man commented absently, his gaze fixed upwards, past the canopy of sky-scrapers towards the sliver of cloudless ink visible above. “Once you could have made out millions of stars from anywhere in the prefecture.”

xxxThe surly teenager seated beside him grunted and shifted slightly away, unsure who this stranger was and why he had randomly started talking to him.

xxx “I made it, you know.” The man continued, an almost smug smile on his face as he leaned against the park bench. He didn’t seem to care that the youth was resolutely staring at the screen of his cell phone, attempting to tune out the rambling stranger. “I mean, I made everything really. You’re welcome by the way.” He paused and glanced at the mortal, as if expecting a ‘thank you’, or any other form of gratitude. When none was offered the man merely continued talking, “But, I am particularly proud of the stars. ”

xxxThe man’s dark eyes returned to the small portion of the sky not covered in thick cloud. He held his hand in front of his eyes, stretched out as if he might pluck the very stars from their homes in the sky. Instead, he waved his hand slowly from side to side, as if waving away a particularly bad smell. A satisfied smile lit his face as his hand fell to his side,

xxx “There, you see!” The man said, nodding towards the now cloudless sky. Though the light from numerous skyscrapers still dimmed the brightest of the stars, they seemed stronger now, shimmering happily above the world below. “Much better.”

xxxThe youth merely grunted again, his hands fiddling headphones into his ears as he attempted to tune out the well-dressed man beside him. Unfortunately, the man’s voice continued to blare through the headphones, as if the younger man’s music wasn’t playing at all.

xxx “I fancy myself as a bit of an artist, if I’m being frank.” He continued, a note of pride creeping into his words, “You see that tree there? I designed it, right down to the edges on the leaves.”

xxxThe teenager didn’t even glance up, too busy checking that he had plugged his headphones in properly. Of all the nights for them to stop working, it had to be when he was getting his ear talked off by some mental stranger.

xxxFrom behind the pair a female voice replied, full of barely contained impatience, “I think you’ll find that I was the one to design that tree. If I remember correctly, you were still babbling on about how sludge was going to be the next big thing.” The woman snorted in amusement. “Well, we all know how that went.”

xxx “Excuse me for trying to do something different.” He retorted hotly, even as he slid across the park bench to make space for the new arrival. Beside him, the irritated youth was silently cursing the two adults who had interrupted his brooding and was quickly stuffing his phone into his backpack. Without a word the kid stood, pulled his hood tightly over his head, and walked away.

xxxThe two gods barely seemed to register the departure, more concerned with the back and forth that had begun. “I make one mistake and you never let me forget it. I made flowers, and gave the world bees. Who doesn’t like bees?” His hands made exaggerated movements in the air.

xxx “One mistake? Oh, I can count at least three dozen you’ve made in the last decade alone.” The female retorted, slapping his hands casually away. She opened her mouth to continue, before changing her mind and instead adding, “But I didn’t come to bicker with you.”

xxxHe nodded. His partner had come for the same reason he had. He stood up slowly, stretching out his tall frame, before offering a hand to the woman. She took it with a nod, her head tilting slightly in a wordless expression of ‘after you’.

xxxA second later the two figures blinked into existence on the wind-swept top of a sky-scraper. From here they could see the city sprawled out below them; neon, artificial lights marking roads, shop advertisements, and the lit windows of residential apartments. Above them, cleared of the thick layer of clouds, was the night’s blanket of stars.

xxxThough no eyes – mortal or otherwise – happened to glance up at the tip of the building, had someone done so, they would have seen two immortals bathed in moonlight, watching their world with a confidence only the gods know. They were one and the same, and yet separate, two entities burning in a universe of their creation.

xxxHe was tall and pale, his feet rooted solidly in the ground beneath him even while his hands reached heavenward. His cheekbones were chiselled from marble, sharp enough to cut mountains. Dark eyes of endless knowledge inspected his world, while strands of hair the same pitch black were pushed back from his face with lithe fingers. His appearance was similar to natives of this land, albeit almost concentrated, as if he were the original that all others had been moulded by.

xxxShe, on the other hand, had the dark, warm skin of someone who would have been marked a foreigner had she walked amongst Tokyo’s population. Her face was softer; a smooth sculpture of beauty, with thick curls of coal-coloured hair engulfing her head. Pupils that whispered of eons gone by watched the city like a predator of old, her lips held tight in a thin frown as possibilities of the days to come ran through her mind.

xxx “Owari” He spoke her name like a resolution; a finality echoing from his lips; the end.

xxx “Hajimari.” She responded with his name; a beginning; a taste of fresh possibilities, and boundless growth.

xxx “Things are moving.” He stated, his eyes too seeing beyond the crawling traffic below. “Do you think they’re ready?”

xxx “They’ll have to be.” Owari responded, her tone firm.

xxxHajimari nodded, rising his gaze from the streets at his feet to the stars above. His hand rose, fingers splayed above his head as his eyes searched between the digits. “Perhaps a sign then.” He murmured, almost to himself. Though, Owari heard and followed her partner’s gaze to the heavens.

xxx “Many have long since forgotten us.” She reminded him as his fingers began to dance overhead. His hand made a graceful pulling motion, a soft breath left his lips, and then the first star fell across the night’s sky; a streak of pure light momentarily illuminating the heavens. More followed, creating a meteor shower for any who happened to turn their attention to the sky that night.

xxx “Well, perhaps this is for my comfort than.” Hajimari replied, his hands clasped behind his back as he admired his work. Owari let the silence build as she too watched the show above, until a dozen moments had passed.

xxx “They all have demons to face.” Her words rang with a hint of pity, for she knew the dangers that were to come.

xxx “Most are of their own making.” Hakimari responded, “They would have had to face them eventually.”

xxxOwari nodded, her curls shifting as if stirred by a gentle wind, “We can only watch now.”

xxxA look of slight guilt crossed the pale god’s face, his eyes flashing momentarily. His partner turned ever-perceptive eyes on him, her frown deepening as she sensed his intentions, “Hajimari, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, stop interfering with their lives!”

xxxAnd just like that, the aura of power and mystery that surrounded the two gods evaporated. Like an old couple, married for too long and all too aware of each other’s faults, they began trading words; barbs, insults, passive aggressive suggestions. A bird soaring above would be wise to avoid the area directly around the snapping deities, a rat might have taken sheltered in a solid pipe well below the pair too. For the less perceptive mortals, they continued their work without contemplating that above them stood two squabbling gods, or that among their number roamed immortals and ghosts. Even as the two gods disappeared, the only witness to their presence a pouting teenage boy, the world continued to move of its own accord.

xxxIn a shoe-box apartment only a few blocks from the building once occupied by the two gods, a Guardian Angel calling himself Kohaku was preparing to leave on work-related business. A short distance further, within the performance hall of one of Tokyo’s learning institutes, a blonde boy studying music gave his hands a shake as he glared at a piano piece. And further away, across vast oceans and mountain ranges carved and painted by the hands of the divines, a goblin’s hand reached for a door knob. Slim fingers curled around the brass head, her eyes shut, mind searching for the pull of her next destination. She opened the door and slid through, her eyes alighting on the clear windows of her Tokyo apartment to see stars decorating the sky.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
"Moving forward is tough when all I do is keep running into walls."




Ambience --- Hex #AE0202 --- Leather Jacket



A dark and gloomy night be all accounts, cluttered with the remnants of people moving to and fro, their presence felt even with the noticeable lack of bodies on the sidewalk. A couple of nurses stood by a service entrance to the hospital, the tips of cigarettes lit orange as the bright overhead light basked them in illumination. They spoke in Japanese, or at least Ryan assumed so as his vehicle passed them by, slowing down to pull into a parking lot that was still way too full for the Hospital’s own good. The black limo slowed to a stop, Ryan’s eyes glued to the Japanese characters written above the entrance and deeply dreading not having learned the language before coming to this country. He knew a few words here and there, but it wouldn’t be enough to get him by.

A man walked up to his door, immaculately pressed work attire of a black suit, white gloves and extravagant hat. He reached out and opened the door for the pilot, his grey hair trimmed to perfection as only the temples could be seen. The older man’s smile was beaming, unhindered by the reality that faced Ryan inside the building in front of him. “Master Prosker.” The man stated as Ryan pulled himself from the vehicle. “You’ll find what you’re looking for on the Eighth floor. Head straight once you’re inside, stop at reception and state ‘Watashi wa Konatsu-shi no tame ni koko ni iru’. This will tell them who you are and help you reach your destination.” The Chauffeur pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to him.

Ryan took it, opening it to find the exact statement written down just in case. The Chauffeur also pulled out a small book and placed it in Ryan’s hands. “You’re also going to need this, if you’re going to be in this country for any length of time Master Prosker. I wish you the best.” Ryan flipped the black book over, reading the title as he did so.

“English to Japanese dictionary.” Ryan whispered to himself, almost as if he didn’t believe he was standing in Japan. He gave it a good couple of shakes. “Thanks Nick, but I doubt I’ll be here long enough to worry about the language barrier.”

“Extra knowledge is never a bad thing Master Prosker.” Nick stated, his comforting smile being the only thing keeping Ryan from potentially having a meltdown at this point. “Besides, life has a funny way of throwing us for a loop, preparation is half the battle.” Ryan gave a nod, looking down at the book before holding it up and giving a smirk as he turned towards the hospital, sliding it into his inner jacket pocket. Nick closed the door, standing in front of the limo until Ryan had entered the doors.

Inside everything was brightly lit, with orderlies, nurses and doctors walking to and fro. That was probably one of the bigger differences he had noticed about this country in his short time here, how everyone seemed to be busy at all times of the day. He held up the piece of paper with the phrase on it once more, reading it and mouthing the words as he wandered forward. He looked up, trying to see if reception would be easily recognizable but only being assailed by signs that he couldn’t understand and people speaking in a language that might as well have been gibberish for all he could make out. Walk straight Nick said, I shouldn’t have to turn. Ryan thought to himself as he stayed the course. Eventually the crowded entrance lead to an open waiting area, with an aging woman behind a counter and separated from the residents of the room by thick glass sitting at a computer. At least this part was the same across the world.

Ryan walked forward, holding up the paper as he did so. The woman’s eyes slowly peered away from the screen, her loose brown bun of hair bobbing slightly as she did. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days, and by the way her glare seemed to pierce the increasingly thin piece of glass, he had to assume that to be the case. “Uhhh…” Ryan stated, doing his best to not butcher the words. “Watashi...wa Konatsu shi no...tame? Nigh...Koko Nigh eru?” Ryan grimaced as he practically displayed just how American he was here. The woman stared at him, her one eyebrow raised as she stood from her sitting position.

“Anata wa konatsusandesu ka? Hontōni?” Ryan stared at her, blinking widely for a moment as he had no idea what she said, although her tone was inquisitive. Did it have to be about him knowing Mr. Konatsu? Ryan admitted that maybe he didn’t look the part. He was standing here, late into the evening wearing a bandana around his head, leather jacket and ripped blue jeans that were more comfortable than they were fashionable. His t-shirt underneath was black and blank, one of the few that didn’t have a funny saying on it, and his expression was of the clueless idiot at this point. Did he agree with her? Did he...not agree with her?

“Uhhhh...si? Wait, that’s spanish...was it...Hi?” The woman stared at him for a moment before sighing and grabbing a couple of papers. She walked out of the room, entering a hallway and making a follow motion with her hand.

“Forō suru.” She stated, to which Ryan simply did. He had to assume that Nick wouldn’t steer him wrong. It took them a few minutes to reach the elevators, passing by a few outpatient rooms, along with what appeared to be a cafeteria and a pharmacy. Personally Ryan always had a problem getting food from a place that most likely had cases of malaria in vials just waiting to be mixed with the ranch dressing. The aid got into an elevator and Ryan followed suit, enduring the incredibly awkward silent ride up to the Eighth floor. The doors opened and the woman led him down another couple of corridors before finally placing him in what appeared to be another kind of waiting room. She had him sit in a chair, pointing a finger at him. “Taizai.” She stated, before making for the door.

“Que?” Ryan asked but only getting a door being shut as a response. “Still spanish Ryan.” Ryan whispered to himself, wondering why he was getting the two languages mixed up considering the extent of his spanish was popular words muttered by adult cartoon characters. Regardless, he sat there in his seat, the only person occupying a surprisingly empty room with multiple chairs around him. He got up briefly to check the magazine rack, but found all the literature to be in Japanese Kanji, and wondered to himself as to what else he expected. It seemed like forever had passed when the door to the room finally opened.

In walked a short man, hair slicked back and formed into an immaculate display of the ideal businessman. Grey at the temples with black color lining the rest of his scalp seemed to paint a perfect picture as to what this man was meant to do. Thin glasses sat on the edge of his nose as slanted blue eyes scanned the room for the sole person inside of it. When he saw Ryan, his smile added more wrinkles to his aging face as he approached the man. “Ryan.” The man stated, his voice giving off the slight Japanese accent that Ryan was accustomed to. Instead of a bow or a handshake, Mr. Konatsu opened his arms for a hug, making his black suit stretch to reveal a wrinkled white undershirt. Signs of stress and long hours most likely, as Ryan simply gave a small smile and returned the hug. Even with Ryan’s small stature, he was still taller than Konatsu by a good couple of inches.

“Mr. Konatsu, it’s been awhile.” Ryan stated more as a fact than anything else. Konatsu released the embrace, giving a scoff.

“Awhile? I guess it sounds better than ‘over a decade’. Makes me sound slightly younger.” Konatsu looked Ryan over, placing a hand on his chin. “Have to say child, you’re looking good...despite your every attempt to destroy that impression. What is this?” Konatsu reached up at the bandana on Ryan’s head, earning a swat from him.

“It’s called my individuality, that’s what.” Ryan stated, giving a smile. Mr. Konatsu was still the man he remembered, the father figure he wished he had had. “But hey, you look exactly the same. Old enough to remember when the dinosaurs were around. Tell me the story about the Brontosaurus again!” Ryan stated, faking enthusiasm for a joke nearly as old as their relationship. Mr. Konatsu gave a fake frown.

“You should know better than to joke at my age child, you’ll be here someday and then you’ll be having to deal with them yourself.”

“By the time I’m your age, I plan on being dead for ten years.” Ryan’s wicked smile planted itself on his face, earning a small laugh from the small man.

“Well considering what you do for a living, that might just happen. A military pilot huh? How’s that working out for you?” Ryan gave a shrug.

“Hours are shit, pay is shit, and the rules are shit, but hey, it puts me in the air with more than enough excitement to go around, so I can’t complain. I heard you’ll be retiring here at the end of the year, you excited?” Konatsu nodded, placing his thumbs underneath his armpits and giving himself a false sense of inflated ego.

“Oh most definitely! I think 40 years of running a technological giant is enough for me. Time to step down and let Hideaki take the reigns. I’ve left him more than enough instructional material and mentoring to hopefully propel this company into the next generation.”

“This is the same Hideaki that decided to take on Akumi in a drinking contest? Are you sure he won’t underestimate the opposition like he did her that night?” Ryan stated, remember Konatsu’s son as a slightly arrogant but decent kid a number of years younger than himself.

“I think the memory of him disgracing his family and our living room rug is enough to not make that mistake again.” Ryan and Konatsu shared a small laugh at the memory before a silence fell between them. Ryan wished the topic didn’t have to change, but the atmosphere shifted into one of somber realization as Konatsu removed his glasses. “I think that’s enough of the formalities though.” Konatsu stated, placing his glasses in his breast pocket. “I would like to thank you for taking the time to come out here Ryan. I know it wasn’t an easy decision.”

“Putting it lightly.” Ryan stated, no levity in his voice as his serious expression conveyed his thoughts on the matter. Konatsu nodded as he peered down slightly before returning Ryan’s gaze.

“To put it bluntly, we don’t know if we’ll be able to save his life. The procedure he’s undergoing is highly experimental and nearly completely untested. We’ll be treading new ground here, the results will be...unpredictable at best.” Ryan seemed to bypass that bit, instead choosing to speak as soon as Konatsu finished his sentence.

“I need you to answer a question...one I think I already know the answer to.” Ryan said, locking eyes with Konatsu for a moment as he already knew what the question was.

“They never asked for you. This was me...I didn’t think it was right for him to be on his potential death bed and you weren’t around to see him off if it was.”

“Do they know I’m here?”

“I haven’t informed them, no.” Ryan looked away for a moment, the underlying subtext of the answer being ‘if I had, they would have stopped me from inviting you here.’ Mr. Konatsu continued. “Ryan, this isn’t a time for hatred. However your life has worked out for you, I don’t believe it’s right for people to-”

“Sorry Mr. Konatsu...but let’s go see the dying fucker.” Ryan stated, moving past the man to the door. Konatsu looked ready to say something, but decided against it as he followed Ryan out of the room and lead him towards his parent’s hospital room.

The trip took them down the hallway and through a couple of doors. Before long Konatsu stood before the entrance to where Ryan’s father lay waiting for his surgery. Konatsu blocked his entrance for a moment, looking at him. “I know there are...many things that haven’t been resolved between all of you...but I urge you to use restraint. No one should go on filled with hate in their hearts.”

“You don’t know these people like I do Mr. Konatsu...if you did you would find what you said to be something that is simply unavoidable.” Ryan motioned towards the door as Konatsu resigned to defeat with a slight bow of his head. He opened the door, revealing the hospital room.

It was state of the art. In the middle sat the bed and his sickly father. He was hooked up to multiple machines that Ryan could only start to guess as to their function. Pristine white sheets looking like they had been freshly laundered lay atop his body. The metal banisters on the side were polished to a sheen that was visible in the bright light of the room. A few chairs sat off to the side while a flat screen tv currently switched off hung on the wall in front of the bed. A giant window looked out over Tokyo, with their height providing a decent view from their room. Another figure occupied the area aside from his father. His mother sat on the side of the man’s bed, gripping his hand tightly as she stared at him.

His father had wasted away, Cancer of the stomach and liver forcing his body to slowly shut down as everyone had repeatedly told him there was nothing they could do. A bald head attached to tubes going down his nose was the first thing that drew Ryan’s attention, which only did more to exacerbate the state of the man. Wrinkles of flesh seemed to sag off of him like melted playdough, although Ryan doubted he worried about that at this point. It was ironic that a man who cared so much for appearances would find himself in such a predicament, as Ryan’s last memory of him was of this upstanding proud and dignified businessman filled with power and confidence. Now he was nothing more than a mere mortal, fated for death at the hands of something that he couldn’t simply buy his way out of, not for lack of trying though seeing as they were all here.

His mother wasn’t too much better. Stress seemed to have eaten away at her, as her once luscious raven locks of hair that used to hang over her shoulders had dulled to a lifeless grey. Her green eyes peered over at her husband even as her veiny hand gripped his with all the strength she had left to give. Her dress was still immaculate, if somewhat slightly disheveled, a standard purple fare that covered her up adequately enough while displaying a somewhat dignified allure...if she had been twenty years younger. As Ryan and Konatsu entered the room, she looked up and smiled for half a second before she recognized who had come within a hundred feet of her.

She stood up and stormed over to Ryan, and even though he knew what was coming, he didn’t bother to stop it. A hard slap, one that was enough to leave a print on his face, arrived at his jaw and nearly forced him to take a step sideways. Despite her aging frame, she still had the strength of her younger days. “How...dare...you.” She stated, all of her composure gone as the rage manifested in a red face and barely held back tears. It took her a full ten seconds to realize that Konatsu was in the room as she hurried to rectify her appearance before her long term friend. Konatsu simply waved his hand.

“I won’t be staying, but before you get into anything...I asked him to come. I felt it was necessary...for what may come to pass. I’m sorry Mrs. Prosker, but I did what I thought was right.” Konatsu did a short bow before ducking back out the door he had come from. Lucky Bastard. Ryan thought to himself as silence overtook the room, a habit that was quickly starting to form in this hospital. It took a good number of minutes for either of them to speak, trying to figure out a way to start a conversation with someone you had come to hate. It was not an easy process, but eventually Linda Prosker started it.

“Why are you here.” She asked, returning to her seat and gripping his father’s hand. Ryan looked between her and his dad, partially wondering the same question himself.

“Was kinda hoping I would have an answer when I got here.” Ryan stated softly, looking at the two of them. “Still...trying to figure that part out.”

“So you don’t know why you’re here.” She stated, her voice dripping enough venom to kill the rest of the elephants in the world. “At what point did you think it would be appropriate to show your face to us again?”

“Last time I checked, there wasn’t any law or restraining order against me forbidding me from seeing either one of you.” Ryan countered, to which Linda scoffed.

“We didn’t think we would need one, seeing as you’re the one who left and never came back.”

“For damn good reason.”

“The pressure got to you, you cracked and ran. It’s something I’m assuming you do on a regular basis now?” Linda stated, her eyes slicing through Ryan’s skull like arrows.

“I’m a pilot with the U.S. Airforce.” Ryan stated, knowing that should be enough to indicate his stance on her statement.

“So you couldn’t even be a Marine. You picked a profession that gives you the illusion of being brave while you simply stay high in the air, safe from the fight while the real heroes are down there fighting for their country.”

“How does tha-...What? Just because I don’t have a gun in my hand and my boots on the ground, that makes me a coward?”

“In all honesty, I couldn’t give a flying fuck what you do Ryan.” Ryan couldn’t hold the shock back from his face. In all the years he had known his mother, he had never once heard her swear even when it was just them. “You could tell me that you single handedly saved several children from a car bomb, or airlifted out dozens of wounded civilians while being shot at...I just don’t care.” She grasped her husband’s hand with both of hers. “End of the day, you left us and whatever you did with your life after that point doesn’t matter to me or your father. You’re dead to us.”

“Mother of the year award goes too…” Ryan stated, falling back on his sarcasm to avoid screaming at her with every bit of pent up rage and frustration he had accumulated over the years. He still let out an aggravated sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose as he leaned against the wall with the tv placed on it. “It’s good to know where I stand with you though, did you manage to dedicate a funeral to me then? Seeing as I might as well have been six feet under?”

“Humor is a thin veil for an attempt at moral superiority. You don’t hold any.”

“I don’t have the moral superiority?!” Ryan yelled in surprise at her. “You made my life a living fucking hell, but because I ran away and did something I wanted instead of acting the puppet, I lost the moral superiority? Are you listening to yourself? Did you ever once listen to yourself?”

“Stop acting like a child, there’s no need for yelling.” Linda stated, her eyes returning to her husband. Ryan threw his hands up.

“Oh right, cause someone might come in here and discover the fucking bitch pretending to be a caring mother is...surprise, a fucking bitch.” Linda didn’t flinch at this accusation, breathing calmly as if she had everything in control...which ultimately she did.

“We did nothing but try to raise you to the best of our abilities. We laid everything out for you and had planned out the best route to assure your rise to power, wealth and prosperity. You threw away all of our efforts when you ran to join the military. You threw us away, we felt no regret in doing the same to you.”

“You honestly believe you’re the wounded party here?” Ryan asked, his incredulousness seeping through into his speech.

“Yes, after all, I’m not the one doing the name calling, a juvenile attempt to villainize me.” Ryan was getting flustered. Normally he could talk his way out of anything and everything, but his mother seemed to have that perfect tone, that perfect word, the perfect delivery that sent him on a downward spiral towards his most negative emotions that made him want to literally strangle her right there in the hospital. She looked over at him, and he could tell that she was very proud of herself despite her nonchalant demeanor.

She believed she had won.

“There’s nothing for you here. Mr. Konatsu was wrong in inviting you to his place and you will find that we will not be inviting or welcoming in the slightest. If you came because of the will, you were written out of it years ago. If you came looking for an apology, we have none to give because we weren’t wrong. If you came to see your father die, than not only are you petty, but also sociopathic. That would explain so many things that have been wrong with you ever since I made the mistake of bringing you into this world.” Ryan stared at her, barely keeping his jaw shut and his fists from beating a new abstract shape into her skull.

“The door is right behind you, I suggest you use it.” Linda stated, returning her gaze to her husband for the last time. The conversation was done, even if Ryan didn’t think it was. Anything he said from this point on would either be ignored or stored for ammunition at a later date. Without a word, Ryan walked to the door and exited the room. Mr. Konatsu sat a small distance away, talking on his cell phone in a seemingly hushed tone. When he noticed Ryan exit the room, he ended the call and made his way over and stopped just short of the pilot.

Without a word, he gauged how well it went and instead handed him a piece of paper. “There’s a bar a couple blocks away called Tippingupointo...The Tipping Point. It stays open all night, so drop my name and they’ll take care of you.”

“You’re not coming with?” Ryan asked, being careful to not crumple the piece of paper. Konatsu gave a shake of his head.

“This isn’t a battle I can help you win Ryan. Sometimes, it takes a pure force of will to see one through to the other side.” Konatsu took his glasses out of his breast pocket and replaced them on his face. “Besides, I got a call from the Board and it seems I’m needed back at the office to discuss some sensitive matters.” Ryan gave a dismissive wave.

“I get it, the world doesn’t stop turning just because of some emotional nukes going off.” Konatsu gave a comforting smile, placing a hand on Ryan’s shoulder.

“I’ll have Nick stop by the bar after I’m done to make sure you get back to your hotel room safely. Take care of yourself Ryan.” Konatsu removed his hand and gave a small bow and left, leaving Ryan staring at the piece of paper with directions to the bar on it as well as a few translated sayings.

Ryan gave a shrug, at the very least maybe he could get some free booze out of this deal. He placed the paper into his pocket and started stumbling his way out of the confusing hospital.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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#, as written by Cloud
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The apartment Kohaku called home was small; a claustrophobic collection of tiny rooms which seemed to grow smaller every time he entered. Though tidy, maintained with obsessive care by both its occupants, none could bypass the fact that it barely fit one resident, let alone two. Haku’s bedroom, he had to admit, was pleasant, and gave off a vibe of being more spacious than it was. A combination of good lighting, both from the electrical bulbs and the room's one window, a clean environment, and minimalist furniture no doubt helped give the illusion of space. Small pot plants decorated his desk and bedside table, and throughout the apartment he shared with his fellow guardian, other small greenery could be found. Haku liked the delicate blooms the best, the ones which needed a caring hand and soft whisper to yield an inch of growth. It took a special kind of patience to cultivate those plants, patience which Haku was thankfully gifted with.

Time management was also a skill learned over centuries of working as a guardian angel, and as Haku glanced at his wrist watch – an old analogue face with a solid crack across the glass – he realised that he was going to be late. This was through no fault of his own, he would have pointed out to anyone had he not been alone. Rather, the fault lay with his new charge, who apparently was early.

“Naturally.” Haku breathed, as if he had always expected the slight inconvenience caused by the change of time. A cynic at heart, the angel was rarely surprised when things didn’t go his way. It was almost as if he anticipated disappointment, accepting it with a forlorn sigh as his due. Now was no different, and with barely a complaint uttered he collected himself and set off.

The guardian did not, as one might expect, head down towards the street. Instead, Kohaku took the stairs to the roof. Long strides carried him up several flights of the concreted stairs, ignoring the sound of yelling which echoed from one floor, and the blaring of televisions on various others. Cold, electric light illuminated his path, before, with a sigh of relief, he stepped out under the moonlight. A cool breeze swept across the angel’s face, momentarily caressing away the creases of worry that lined his forever young face. Dark, melancholic eyes turned heavenward, towards a cloudless sky that seemed to hang in the moment, like a breath waiting to be released. Then, the exhale. A spark streaking across the engulfing black; pinpricks of light making their descent to earth in breath-taking bursts of light.

Kohaku let himself indulge for a fraction of a second, his gaze aching for some forgotten feeling. Then, tearing his eyes away and casting them to his feet, the angel let out a sigh. He could only assume that there would be many eyes on the sky tonight, and despite his glamour rendering him invisible when he flew, Kohaku knew that a few of Tokyo’s millions might see him pass – the immortals and touched mortals. All he could do was mentally apologise for anyone who was distracted for a single moment from the falling stars by his flittering frame, before he stepped off the side of the building and took to the air.

Translucent, shimmering wings burst from the angel’s back, keeping his body aloft and pulling him higher into the sky so that Haku could skim over the tops of Tokyo’s steel horizon. He was faster than any manmade machine, making the journey in a collection of seconds. His toes scuffed the top of the hospital roof, heels settling down a moment later. His wings curled away, once again invisible. No stranger to the hospital roof, Haku turned his feet towards the stairwell entrance.

Unlike the reapers who lived in the apartment below his, Kohaku regretfully did not own a suave black hat as part of his uniform, instead he wrapped the image of another around his frame. He opened the door to the stairs as a grim young man and stepped through as an older man, face wrinkled by time and forgotten worries, hands gnarled and broken. His plain clothes whitened and lengthened into a doctor’s coat, while a nametag on his chest informed any who read it that he was a senior doctor in the neonatal ward.

At this time of night visitors were rare and the corridors were quieter than the day, yet still the halls buzzed with activity. Patients and staff murmured between each other, machines whirred and beeped, and the hums of phones ringing, trolleys being wheeled, and more echoed throughout. Haku’s footsteps barely made a noise as he navigated through the maze of hallways. He followed the unexplainable connection that pulled him towards his charge, like a thin cord that linked him with the mortals he was to watch that vibrated with their emotions. He could feel her now, bewildered, and curious.

His pace quickened, and soon he was pushing through the doors to where the new born mortals were wrapped snuggly in blankets. There were half a dozen babies within the room, none no more than a day old. Though Kohaku had never seen his new charge before, he knew without needing to read the name tag that Aoi was in the cot at the end. His hands gently picked up the small human, as careful as if the new born was his own. A soft smile appeared on the angel’s glamoured face, a rarity indeed had anyone other than a baby been around to witness it.

“Somebody was eager to meet the world.” Haku whispered, his gaze kind as the baby girl’s own large eyes met his. “You’re early.”

The baby didn’t respond, but Haku could sense its sentiment; the pure, uninhibited emotions of an infant. He had always held a special place in his heart for children. Why, he was never quite sure. Haku only knew that here, holding the precious bundle in his arms, he felt more complete than he had in years. Yet, even as he soothed Aoi back to sleep, Kohaku could feel the pull of his other charges. He was needed elsewhere.

“I will see you again, Aoi.” He whispered to his charge, placing her softly back into her crib. He hesitated for only a moment, watching the small puff of her cheeks as she breathed, “I wonder what you will become, and where you will find greatness. What joys and hardships will you face?”

Though guardian angels had a hand in directing fate, even they were naïve to the destinies their charges held. Their job was to keep them safe, to nudge them in the direction that would lead them to greatness. A hard job when that greatness appeared elusive. Once, before the world had become that much more accessible, a guardian could follow their charge from infanthood to adulthood. Now, however, over half of his charges moved across the world, to become the responsibility of some other amnesiac immortal. In return, he was given the cases of those guardian’s charges who found their way to Tokyo.

Another of Haku’s newest charges was within the hospital, though this was a grown man rather than a new born soul. Like the first, Kohaku followed the intuitive connection towards the American, reading what he could of the man’s emotions as he went. As he passed under the artificial lights of the hospital bulbs, Haku altered his glamour slightly. The face remained the same, yet each step saw years fall away. Hair slowly thickened and darkened, wrinkles disappeared, and his figure straightened, until he appeared to be a man in his early thirties. The lab coat was gone too, replaced in an empty corridor with the plain clothes of an office worker.

New charges always took a small amount of time to plan for. Though Kohaku was connected to the man’s emotions, there was an unpredictability about handling a charge Haku wasn’t used to that offered some difficulty. It was for this reason that the angel stopped mid-step and frowned, shook his head slightly, and decided to try a different tact. It would take a few interactions to fully learn what might help Ryan Prosker, and he thought he’d keep it short and simple for the first.

Five minutes later a small figure sporting pigtails, a pair of thick glasses, and a girl scouts uniform, turned the corner. Braces lined her teeth, and various badges pinned across her chest displayed her status as a senior girl guide. Haku’s glamour could have been no older than ten, yet the tiny Japanese girl walked with the determination of a centuries old man. It was only when she was within sight of her target, that the girl scout slowed. Haku had come prepared, and reaching into his (her) pocket, he pulled out a small packet of girl guide biscuits. The chocolate flavour.

The glamour’s shoes made a light tapping sound as she danced across the hospital floors, reaching Ryan Prosker quickly. Japanese spilled from his mouth, the tone that of a prepubescent girl, before Haku thought better of it and translated his original statement into heavily accented English.

“Sir, would you like some cookies?” The girl guide smiled brightly at the man, her gaze unwavering as she pushed the packet towards him. “Life is full of constant disappointment and heart-aching.” Haku added, his feminine voice momentarily sombre, the English awkward on his tongue, “But whenever I begin to question the pointless cycle of life, I find biting in a cookie is helpful in the calming of my mind. A momentary pause, before an additional attempt at help, “The exit is down the left path.”

Perhaps it wasn’t the smoothest translation from the Japanese, but Kohaku had never claimed to be a linguist. With a quick bow, the girl guide pushed the packet forward and let go, before quickly turning on her toes and skipping off. Haku could only hope the cookies cheered up his charge, yet he had no doubt that more interaction would be needed in the near future.

Once out of sight around the corner, Haku ducked through a side door and found himself stepping once more into the brisk night’s air. Sirens screamed close by, car horns echoed throughout the night,, and above it all the last few stars began their descent from heaven. Kohaku jumped into the sky, the material of his girl guide’s skirt flapping in the breeze created by his wings. Invisible to all below, he once again let his wings transport him, though this time he remained between the buildings, weaving through them as he followed the map in his mind. His feet touched down a moment later, glittery slip-ons meeting the dirty pavement of a back alley.

The door to the bar jangled as the ten-year-old girl walked in, surprise appearing on her face as she spotted the dark suit and familiar face of her neighbour. The girl guide slid into the seat opposite Seung, offering a glum nod of acknowledgment directed towards the reaper as she settled in. Only when Haku was certain that no eyes were on him did he shed the small girl glamour, letting his natural form take precedent.

“I didn’t know you frequented ‘The tipping point’.” Haku said, his gaze taking in Seung’s sharp suit with a hint of envy. He would love to own such a flattering and expensive piece of clothing, yet even if Haku had the money to afford it – which he didn’t – he was sure it would only bring out the bags under his eyes or accentuate his already prominent ears. “My charge might visit here tonight. Please don’t take his soul. I’ve only just received his case and it would look terrible on my record if he died the first night in my care.”

The bartender came over, a selection of drinks in his hand. Haku shook his head slowly and asked for water instead. The bartender frowned slightly before stepping away, and Haku slumped further into his seat in dejection. He didn’t have enough money to purchase luxury items like sake, not when he’d just given away a packet of girl guide biscuits for free. But, he supposed that was part of his dues. A punishment for the sin he committed in his past life. Such was the after-life.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
"A good drink will dull the senses, a great drink will erase them altogether."




Ambience --- Hex #AE0202 --- Leather Jacket




You would think that a man who was capable of flying his way through a hail of gunfire and rockets would be able to easily find his way out of a hospital. You would be wrong, because Ryan was having way more trouble than he cared to admit. One hand held the English to Japanese dictionary, while another hand aimlessly waved about in an effort to figure out his bearings. He could just start taking doors at random, but that would present another set of problems that Ryan was not wanting to deal with. His attempts to stop a couple of people in order to get directions were either met with him being ignored or stared at as he laughably tried some Japanese phrases. Either way, he was about ten seconds away from jumping through a window and seeing if he could simply fly to the bar.

It was at this moment that a young Japanese girl wandered up to him. A girl scout? In a hospital? At night? By herself? There were so many questions Ryan wanted to ask but thought better of it as she immediately launched into a tirade of the unknown language, stopping for but a moment as Ryan raised an eyebrow at the girl. His fingers flipping through the pages, trying to find enunciations that matched up the the rapid pace of speech this child had just given to him. “Uhhhhh…” Ryan murmured to himself, his eyes darting from the pages to the girl and back again. It was but a second later that she spoke in English, broken but definitely understandable.

She asked if he wanted some cookies, and before he could respond, she spoke again. ”Life is full of constant disappointment and heart-aching...But whenever I begin to question the pointless cycle of life, I find biting in a cookie is helpful in calming of my mind.” Ryan stared at her for a moment, caught between shock and surprise at the little girl. It was almost like she was reading his mind, and considering the amount of things he had heard and/or seen come out of this country, part of him wondered if that wasn’t in fact true. Before he could say anything, she pointed him towards the exit, shoved the cookies into his chest and skipped off. Ryan found himself staring at her for far longer than any adult man should stare at a small child, and shook his head.

“What?” Ryan asked more to himself than anything else. He looked down at the cookies, then back up at where the girl had skipped to. “What?” He repeated to himself, catching a few looks from passing nurses and doctors. He wasn’t sure what exactly had happened, all he knew was that her English was better than his Japanese, and that embarrassed him. He stared at the package of cookies, chocolate flavor, and wondered if this was some elaborate plan to poison him using an unassuming yet somehow creepily knowledgable girl. He shook his head and walked in the direction that she had pointed him towards. He was left with more questions than answers as he found the correct set of doors that would lead him outside. Note to self...make a map. Ryan thought to himself as he opened the package of cookies and peered inside. He picked one out of the box as he made his way towards the exit, looking it over before giving it a bite.

Mmmmm, chocolatey.

The crisp air outside was a welcome reprieve to the stuffy atmosphere he had just been subjected to. He stood outside the doors for a moment, his hand repeatedly dipping into the box and munching away at the cookies inside. He peered around at his surroundings, everything alien to the American as he didn’t even attempt to make sense of the signs and writing around him. He pocketed the dictionary into his jacket and took out the note that Konatsu had handed him instead. On it were directions written to the bar as plainly as he could make them, only an idiot wouldn’t have been able to find it.

Then again, Ryan had to get help from a girl scout just to exit a hospital...so the odds were not in his favor.

He started wandering down the street, the slight amount of wind pulling his jacket behind him as he peered through the nearly empty streets. Bits of litter floated as if pulled from invisible strings, windows were alight with activity like fireflies, but souls seemed to be absent from his view. It took a few minutes before he saw another person, which was a blessing as he had slowly been convincing himself he had died and been put in purgatory or something akin to a slow form of psychological torture. The lack of bodies was getting to him, he could feel himself getting agitated and antsy at the fact that he was practically alone in an unknown world. How he wished his buddies could have made the trip, or even if there was one more English speaking person walking beside him. He hated solitude, despised it with every fiber of his being.

With only the passing moments of people wandering by to keep his mind from spiraling into a desperate search for conversation, he could sense that familiar feeling of irritation welling up inside him. It felt like his entire body was restless, but would eventually evolve into an itch he couldn’t scratch, until it felt like his entire body wanted to spasm. He had once been told this was all a psychosomatic reaction to his natural inclination to always want to be surrounded by people, but whether it was in his head or not, it felt just as real. Luckily, before it could get any worse, he arrived at the bar that Konatsu had pointed him towards.

Ryan took a moment to size the place up, and to be quite frank it seemed about a half step up from a dive bar. Maybe Konatsu came here to avoid all the high profile people he had to deal with on a daily basis. It could have been his oasis in a desert of snobby lawyers, idiot executives, and stupid shareholders. Ryan double and triple checked the name and Kanji on the note, making sure he was in the right place before replacing the note into his pocket and digging for more cookies. His hand came back empty, so with a frown he looked inside the box to see that he had eaten them all in the short time it took him to get to the bar. Oh man I’m going to have to run that off later. Ryan thought to himself as he wondered how hard he had been pigging out just now, lost in his own thoughts. He looked around for a garbage can, and found a dumpster on the side of the building. He tossed the empty box into it before making his way inside.

The interior was dimly lit, either on purpose or because they couldn’t afford better lighting. Several tables were placed around the room, oddly enough they were the ones he was used to eating at. Ryan had the impression he would be kneeling at every establishment he went to, with the tables that might as well have been floors. Aside from that, it wasn’t bad. The atmosphere had a homely touch to it, the kind where the ‘everyone knows everyone’ vibe seemed to perpetuate the air, although he doubted that was the case. There was a bar counter with stools as well, and despite there being several people in groups among the tables, Ryan opted for the spot closest to the supply of alcohol. He didn’t know anyone, add in the fact that the language barrier made it extremely difficult to communicate and you have yourself one hell of a recipe for great misunderstandings. It was fine though, so long as people were around him and chatting away, Ryan could get rid of his antisocial anxiety.

As Ryan took a seat at the counter the Bartender came over, an aging man who looked to be about in his forties. He was completely bald although it was most likely from choice, and a surprisingly few wrinkles marred his face. If it wasn’t for the other physical facts, such as his slightly hunched posture and aging skin on his hands, Ryan could have easily mistaken him for someone closer to his own age. “Watashi ni nani ga dekiru?” Ryan didn’t bother trying to answer, instead he fished out the note in his pocket and looked it over. There were phrases written, including one that introduced him as a friend to Konatsu. He narrowed his eyes at the phrase, but luckily Konatsu had been kind enough to spell out the pronunciation of the words.

“Watashi wa Konatsu no tomodachidesu.” Ryan stated, heavily aware that his accent was most likely making the Japanese nearly unintelligible. The Bartender widened his eyes slightly and gave a smile.

“Ah! You must be Prosker-san!” The bartender stated in heavily accented English. Ryan looked up, pleasantly surprised that the man understood English at all.

“Oh thank God. You know English?” Ryan asked, severely relieved at not having to deal with a language barrier that would result in him simply emphasizing just how western he was. The Bartender shrugged.

“Here there.” The man stated, turning around and grabbing a bottle that Ryan could only hope had something that would knock him on his ass. “Konatsu-sama call ahead, he say put everything on his bill. You drink free tonight.” Ryan blinked for a moment, he had been expecting a discount not a free ride to blissful drunk town.

“I’m going to owe him something fierce…” Ryan muttered as the bartender looked under the counter.

“Gomen'nasai?” He asked, of which Ryan took a wild guess as to what that meant.

“Eh, nothing. Just muttering to myself.” The bartender nodded before seemingly cursing to himself as he reached underneath the counter and pulling out nothing. He cursed, or at least Ryan took it as cursing, in Japanese several times before placing the bottle on the bar.

“No cups, I get cups. Be right back.” The bartender stated before moving towards a curtain, yelling something in Japanese and getting yelled at back by someone with a slightly deeper voice than his. Ryan looked at the bottle, and naturally it was all in the language of the natives. He couldn’t understand what it said, so he took to taking a look around the bar instead. There were a number of people in the building. There were a couple of people huddled in a corner having a hushed conversation, a lonely looking man having a drink by himself and a group of four with a woman face down on the table. That sight brought about a confused look from Ryan, but there didn’t seem to be any immediate distress so he didn’t think it was warranted for him to intervene. All in all, the atmosphere was melancholic. Considering his own emotional fragility at the moment, this was not something that he wanted to be around.

It was then that the Bartender came back, carrying a few cups and placed them all under the counter while leaving one in front of Ryan. He muttered to himself in Japanese, and while the language may be different, the verbal cues of griping because of a lazy or incompetent worker was universally understood. The Bartender took the bottle and poured the liquid into the cup. “Sake, drink.” The man stated, to which Ryan grabbed the small bowl-shaped cup and brought it up to his lips.

“Domo Arigato.” Ryan stated, and immediately the Bartender’s face turned sour.

“What you call me?! You have nerve!” The surprise at the Bartender’s sudden shift in mood combined with the strength of the drink was enough to make Ryan gulp in surprise and start a coughing fit as he held up a hand, speaking in a hushed whisper as he attempted to swallow what he could in time to say something.

“What did I say? I thought that was thank you! Was it not thank you?!” The Bartender’s expression deadpanned for a moment before he burst into laughter, slapping the table slightly.

“It is! I make joke!” He continued laughing as Ryan cleaned up his face, grabbing the towel the Bartender eventually offered him.

“Ah yes, make fun of the American and his uncultured ways, how civilized of you.” Ryan stated in a mocking tone, although his smile was wide and genuine. He didn’t mind being the butt of a joke so long as people were having a good time. Besides, it helped him push everything that had just happened to the back of his mind. He was never good with dealing with his own emotional issues, preferring to ignore everything that wasn’t beneficial to the people around him. “I think we’ll get along just fine. What do I call you?”

“Miyata Yoshinobu.” The Bartender replied, cleaning up a bit of the spilled sake with a smile still on his face. Ryan took another shot of the Sake, breathing through his teeth as the alcohol hit his system.

“And...Miyata is your family name right? You place your names backwards to western culture?”

“Yoshinobu personal name, Miyata family name.” Ryan gave a nod.

“Alright Yoshi, then while I’m drinking on my friend’s tab, might as well let everyone else get in on the fortune too. He’s rich, he can afford it. Get everyone in here a drink of their choice and charge it to Konatsu.” Yoshi seemed to hesitate slightly before Ryan gave a wave. “He could buy this Bar with his pocket change, he won’t look twice I promise.” Yoshi yelled back into the kitchen-type area, and out came a younger looking gentleman. Most likely it was Yoshi’s son as his tone seemed to convey...a familial order to it. He barked some orders in Japanese and soon enough the man was moving from group to group asking them what drink they would like and explaining that it was already paid for.

“Generous with other people’s money.” Yoshi stated, to which Ryan gave a shrug.

“Better I spend it on other people than just myself, don’t you think?” Ryan asked, taking another shot of Sake as once again thoughts of his parents came unbidden to the forefront of his mind. There was only one way that he was going to get through tonight in any form of happiness or blissful ignorance. ”Now, keep hitting me with the strong stuff till I can’t see straight.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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#, as written by Verix
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Seung & Seok Areum
GRIM REAPER | #D08462 | FOX SPIRIT | #D24038



      The sound of another occupant moving into the booth left Seung mildly more happy than he had been moments before. Such a feeling was not meant to last however, and as his neighbor began to speak his mood only soured, “I didn’t know you frequented ‘The tipping point’. My charge might visit here tonight. Please don’t take his soul. I’ve only just received his case and it would look terrible on my record if he died the first night in my care.”

      Sighing heavily he then took a sip of his drink, “Only after work,” he lifted his head so his eyes could meet his neighbor's, “Haku, Reapers only take the lives of those destined to die, we don’t get to choose.”They remained silent until the bartender came and the Angel ordered a glass of water. Seung felt a sense of understanding knowing it was probably to save money. He would have offered the man a drink but knowing Alucio and his penchant for more expensive drinks, he would need to cut his losses where he could. Adding another expense would be detrimental.

      With nothing else to say they lapsed into a comfortable stillness until another figure slid into the booth and rested her head on the table. Seung sighed and gently pat her head.
      "I'm so sad. Takumi will never love me. Is it because I'm dead?”
      “I think it may be because he doesn’t know you.” Before he could say anything else though the other half of the rent came walking in and sat down next to him. "I didn't think tonight was one of gathering nights."
      “You left me on read.”
      Alucio pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to Minako with a soft sigh. Seung would have been touched had his roommate not ruined the moment by drinking his sake without even so much as asking. If that was how he wished to be then so be it.
      “Indirect kiss,” his voice was monotone and without thinking he made a heart with his thumb and index finger. Hopefully he wouldn’t spit it out.

      Just in case however he made a move to call the bartender over, only to notice the man had appeared seemingly out of no where. Minako ordered her drink and when she nervously responded, “I love—to sleep,” she looked helplessly at the three men — most likely asking for death. Seung had no idea how to handle the situation and so promptly kept his gaze lowered and forgot to order another drink. He as well needed sleep after dealing with his friends.

      The bartender then named the price of her beverage, and had to almost pry the card out of her hands. Minutes later the man returned bringing with him her vodka and money. She downed her drink as if it were water and tried choke back her sobs. It was saddening and Seung was clueless as to what to do.
      "Is she... Okay?" he asked.
      “I believe so. Thank you,” he took the card from the bartender's hand and waved him off to spare Minako some humiliation. He was her friend after all.
      “You don't even remember my name.”
      “You never gave it to him, if I remember. Right, Haku?”
      Before their discussion could escalate however a man came to their table with a bright smile. Seung didn’t trust him, but nonetheless listened to whatever he had to say.
      “What can I get you all to drink today?” a frown appeared on Seung’s face, cautious of his overly happy disposition. “Ah, it’s already been paid for.” He should have started with that line.

      That got Seung’s attention and so promptly he ordered a drink he had been eyeing all night long, “I’ll have a bourbon then.” He didn’t ask who had been generous enough to pay for their drinks, the attendant's attention already having moved on, and so looked at his friends expectantly. After all, they should thank the person who had essentially saved them rent money. Mortals could be so nice at times.



      ( • • • )


      It had occurred to Areum multiple times before that although it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a life without Cassius, she deeply resented the thought of it. Perhaps her mornings would be a little less bright, and the sound of her soul would sing more loudly, but in comparison to who she was intrinsically — nothing would change. And yet, even the mere thought of separation brought a dull ache to her heart she thought would have faded with time.

      As another attendant passed by Areum plucked a glass of champagne off their tray and shifted her gaze from the man in yellow to her new drink. She furrowed her eyebrows in dissatisfaction as she finally took notice of its taste. It was much too sweet and left a tangy flavor in her mouth, not even vodka could smother its presence.

      While in deep thought, Areum had been deaf to whatever pretty but meaningless compliments Cassius was most likely gushing. It was only when the pitch of his voice lowered that her attention was finally on him once more. "I believe you've yet to meet. This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction."

      She raised an eyebrow and finally lowered her drink. Before her stood the man she had been glaring at previously, and with a new perspective, she smiled.

      “It’s a pleasure to meet you —” she gave a quick sideways glance to Cassius, “Basil. A friend of Kaede’s is a friend of mine, and so I hope we’ll see more of each other in the future.” Without warning she stepped closer to the man and stared at his face in concentration. She noted his thick eyebrows that framed doelike eyes and the way his pout was wide but very pretty. He was an eccentric kind of attractive, and it made her want to stare at him all the more curiously. “Should you ever wish to model for my magazine feel free to contact me. I’m sure we can have something arranged.” Slowly she backed away and focused her gaze on Kaede instead. It was unspoken that she would be the photographer, and for Areum that would only be an added bonus should he accept.

      "Excuse me,” Cassius interrupted and before she could get a word out the man was gone. Areum rolled her eyes but in doing so caught sight of the event unfurling that Cassius must have seen as well. In her mind, she praised her friend for taking a swift course of action and let him deal with it himself; however, it was the familiar face of the woman sitting at the bar that made Areum move to help.
      “Forgive me, I’ll be back in a moment,” walking with purpose she quickly slid between the patrons who still hadn’t noticed the debacle and kept dancing. They were either too drunk to notice or too self-absorbed to care.
      Silently, Areum sat down next to Shiori just as the bartender supplied her with another drink. She tapped the counter to order the same beverage as well and placed her empty champagne glass on her right side for someone to clean up.
      “I saw what you did, and I’m very grateful but —” she turned to look the officer straight in the eye, “—why didn’t you arrest him?”

      The bartender finally finished creating her drink and placed it in front of her hands. Idly she traced her ring finger along the rim of the glass and awaited her response. She had the authority to act, so why didn’t she? Was it the fear of repercussions, or an inability to serve due to being off the clock? Her thoughts was cut short however by the sight of men storming away from where Cassius stood watching. Areum recognized them for who they were and in a quick act of vindictiveness dumped the contents of her drink onto their passing forms.

      There was no logical reason for what she did, and like most things Areum didn't think of the consequences, but the feeling of revenge was too good to pass up. She let out a small condensing smile and a quiet laugh. The apparent leader snarled and made his way to Areum to which she gave a disinterested sigh, “Perhaps I should call Mr. Dōriēwes over.” A pointed look to her friend had the men freeze before backing away slowly. A grin spread across her face.

      When the men left and all that remained was a stillness, Cassius' strong voice echoed in the silence and promised the patrons a round of free cocktails. Applause and laughter filled the room bringing life back to the party, and with a weary grimace Areum focused her attention back to Shiori.

      “I have someone I’d like you to meet,” without warning Areum took the girl’s wrist and lightly tugged at her to follow. She cut through the center with ease, her disposition not allowing for any jostling, and finally made way to where she left Kaede and Basil. She needed Cassius’ opinion on the girl, and more than anyone she knew, he understood her needs the best.



Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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#, as written by Cloud
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xxxIt made no difference how many times reaper Seung reminded Haku that they did not choose who died, merely followed the cards assigned to them. The guardian still maintained the prejudice that their mere presence must not be lucky for any mortals in the vicinity. Yet, as Seung reminded him of the fact, the guardian merely nodded solemnly in response rather than argue. Best not to upset a grim reaper after all.

xxxA moment of comfortable peace passed between reaper and guardian instead, the sounds of the bar’s other occupants and the steady beat of vehicles rumbling down the road outside soothing after a day of work. Haku sipped on his water, wishing once again that he could afford anything more than the free drink. A despondent sigh escaped the angel, his shoulders slumping slightly as his gaze left the sad glass of water. His lips parted, words collecting on his tongue, before a small figure joined the quiet pair with a thump and a sorrowful exclamation.

xxxKohaku knew Minako’s moods well, and was well acquainted with her inclination to find love in the smallest, most meaningless of gestures. A passing stranger might smile at her, and the diminutive guardian angel would assure Haku that she was in love. She felt too strongly, opening herself up for disappointment whenever a fresh sweetheart failed to return her newly developed devotion. On more than one occasion in their decades of friendship, Haku had found himself comforting his fellow angel, offering a quiet shoulder to cry on as he patiently waited for her to right herself.

xxxAt least now Haku had the support of his neighbour. No two neighbours, he corrected himself as Alucio joined the quiet table. Kohaku returned Alucio’s greeting, raising his hand vertical and giving a short wave before letting his fingers wrap around the glass of water and pulling it closer. He should have asked for a straw. He watched as Alucio offered the distraught guardian his handkerchief, and Kohaku suddenly had the sinking feeling that he’d be spending the next week hearing Minako waxing poetic about Alucio’s generosity. The male guardian bit back a sigh and returned his attention to the glass of water.

xxxThoughts of sinking into a hot bubble bath distracted Kohaku from the chatter of the table, his mind already swimming with sweet scented candles and luxurious bath salts. Bath bombs were his guilty pleasure, the rare item he allowed himself to splurge on. Not that he did so very often. He would use a candle right down to the stub, and lay in a bath until all the bubbles were gone and the heat had completely vanished. Anything to make the most of his spent money.

xxxOnly the sound of his name draws Haku away from his mental bubble bath, and he gazes up to stare blankly a Seung. Having missed the earlier conversation, Kohaku merely nods and agrees uncertainly, “Right.”

xxxThen a worker is at their table, and Haku’s lips quirk into the first almost-smile of the day. A free beverage? What luck is this? With a quick nod, Haku picks up the menu hastily and skims down the list of cocktails, wines, and other assorted alcoholic drinks. He’s half scared that if he takes too long, the offer will disappear. Yet, as soon as he finds something he likes, he glances up and finds the bartender waiting patiently for the order.

xxx “I’d like sex on the beach, please.” Kohaku informs him, ignorant to how such a phrase could be turned around in any other situation. Yet, the barkeep’s face does not break into a mocking smile at the cocktail, but a regretful frown.

xxx “I’m sorry sir, but that drink was discontinued last week. You must have an old menu.”

xxxHaku is handed another menu, his disappointment and resignation clear by the set of his shoulders and gloomy mask. Nevertheless, he selects another drink – a respectable beer – and hands the menu back with another sigh. It’s only then that he notices the man sitting at the bar. He can sense the man’s emotions, the connection slightly sluggish thanks to the few shots of Sake he’s already consumed. The bartender follows Kohaku’s gaze and gives a happy nod,

xxx “Yes, the American has kindly bought the whole bar a round.” He informed the table, nodding towards the figure of Ryan Prosker.

xxxHaku nods absently before his elbow shifts, prodding into Minako as he drew his eyes away from his charge. “I’m going to talk with my charge. If you’re capable of sitting straight and tearing your gaze from the table, I would appreciate any advice you could give me on him.” Haku mumbled, before a gaze at the men in black sitting opposite them made him add in a quieter voice, “And make sure the reapers don’t kill my charge.”

xxxWith a nod to said reapers, and a promise that he would be right back, the guardian angel slid from his chair and gained his feet. He felt almost naked without a glamour on, but knew that it would be redundant to leave the bar only to come back wearing the image of another person. He may as well wear his own face. Subconsciously, Haku tugged on the lobe of his almost-too-big ear and set off, dipping around tables empty and occupied as he made for the counter.

xxxHe didn’t entirely have a plan, but knew that talking with his charges would only help in his mission to enable them to meet their great fate. So, he took the seat next to the American and drew a rare smile onto his face as he faced Ryan. His lips were unaccustomed to such a position, and the smile quickly fell into a more neutral position as he addressed the man seated beside him.

xxx “Hello, do you speak Japanese?” Kohaku asked in his native tongue, before switching to his less-fluent English, “Or should I thank you in English?”

xxxMovement to his right momentarily drew Haku’s attention away, and he was rewarded with the sight of the bar tender sliding a cool beer into the guardian’s waiting palm. With a nod of thanks to the worker, Kohaku turned towards Ryan once more, his beer held out towards the American – an age-old, wordless invitation to clack their drinks together and ‘cheers’.

xxx “To what are you celebrating?” Kohaku continued, his tongue feeling uncoordinated as it pronounced the English words.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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Ryan Prosker \|/ Kohaku






“So...do many people call you Yoshi? Like the little green...raptor...thing from Mario?” Ryan asked, his hand reaching for another shot of sake. Yoshi looked over, giving a slight sigh as he topped Ryan off once more.

“Few times, mostly drunk Americans though.” Ryan paused for a moment, before lowering his head.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend or anything...but Yoshi is awesome! He lays eggs and has this weird tongue thing…” Yoshi gave a wave of the hand.

“You don't offend me, I have dealed with the name for a long time. Stopped bother me years ago.” Ryan looked down at his sake, swirling it in his cup for a moment.

“Well if it evens the odds a bit, my callsign is Rango.” Yoshi looked over at him, an eyebrow raised.

“Rango?” He asked, curiosity hitting his face with the force of a sledgehammer.

“Yeah, supposed to be some sort of lizard thing...gecko maybe that talks real fast and such. It’s a movie apparently, I’m assuming you’ve never seen it?”

“No.” Yoshi replied curtly. Ryan gave a shrug.

“Yeah, me neither.” It was at that moment that a young man came towards Ryan, grabbing his attention with some well spoken Japanese. Ryan stared blankly at him, looking over to Yoshi to translate but before that could happen, the man switched to English. He sat down next to Ryan as the American pondered just how inadequate he was going to feel if so many people could speak both languages and he was filling the stereotype of only knowing one. The man wanted to thank him, and as he got his beer, he held it forward. Ryan grabbed his cup and went to do the same thing only to realize he was drinking out of the traditional sake cup and had no idea how to clank it.

So with all the awkwardness of someone who was obviously not from around there, he lifted the cup with both hands and gave the beer a quick clank that just looked completely silly. Ryan took his shot from the cup before looking down at it and giving a quick laugh at the entire situation. He could feel his cheeks already starting to flush, but that just meant the booze was working. Weird stuff sake, went down like water and hit like a truck apparently. When the man asked what he was celebrating, Ryan paused for a moment. Was he even celebrating anything?

Failed reunions?

Family loathing and hatred?

Maybe just something as simple as being able to walk out of that hospital without decking his own mother in the mouth.

Ok that last one was a bit harsh, but he was finding it hard to not be bitter about the entire thing. In the end, Ryan gave a sigh, filling up his cup once more from the bottle placed directly in front of him. “I’m not celebrating a thing.” Ryan finally admitted, looking over at the man. He was rather scrawny looking, although that was nothing coming from Ryan who was considered the smallest guy in his unit. He looked timid, but he seemed to have an air of confidence that allowed him to approach Ryan easily. Maybe it was just a wrong first impression of the man, after all, Ryan was usually the victim of such a thing. “To be perfectly honest, everyone here looked a bit down so I thought, ‘Hey, why not give everyone something to smile about, free booze!’” Ryan gave a beaming smile, spinning so he was facing the man. He heard Yoshi scoff over in the corner, which earned a quick finger from Ryan. “Shush you!”

When that was done, Ryan looked over at the man who approached him, holding out a hand. “Name’s Ryan Prosker...wait...am I supposed to bow?”

Kohaku caught the tail end of his charge's conversation with the barkeep, remaining silent as he took his seat beside the American. Beer in hand, he clinked it against Ryan's sake glass and took a soothing sip of the chilled beverage. Haku didn't drink much, due to a mixture of budget issues and a habit of getting too intoxicated too quickly, but he had to admit that he enjoyed a cold drink at the end of the day. Haku also had to agree that the majority of those gathered in the bar were far from boisterous. The table the guardian had just departed stood as a prime example, Kohaku almost expected to hear the mournful cries of his fellow guardian joining the soft hum of the other patron's chatter. Yet, thankfully his charge seemed to be holding it together better than Minako.

"You are new to Japan, I believe." Haku replied, giving Ryan's offered hand a firm shake. As he released Ryan's hand and pulled his arm back, the guardian bent slightly forward, offering the American a small bow in both greeting and demonstration, before adding, "You can call me Kohaku."

The guardian suddenly wished he had purchased a travel pamphlet or book that might be able to illuminate Japanese social customs to the foreigner, though Haku mentally conceded that a quick search on a smartphone would offer a valuable range of information on the same topics. Still, he added it to the list of ways he might be able to help his charge.

"How long have you been in Japan?" Kohaku asked a moment later, before holding his hand up to get the barkeep's attention. Remaining in English for the sake of the man seated next to him, Haku asked for a glass of water, fearing how quickly the alcohol might go to his head if he doesn't pace himself. Being drunk around his charge would not be a good work story.

The bartender was quick to act, and within moments he was pushing a full glass towards Haku. The guardian thanked him as his own hand moved forward to take it, his fingers brushing accidentally over the mortal's hand. Instantly Kohaku was given insight into the barkeep's mood, sensing good-natured humour, and a weariness at the long day and night ahead. With a smile, Haku leaned in and spoke to both barkeep and charge,

"Did you know Yoshi means good luck, righteous, or virtuous, depending on the kanji? I once knew a Yoshi, many years ago, who was blessed with all of those"

"Gave it away that quickly huh?" Ryan answered in a fully aware rhetorical question, taking another shot of his sake before giving a slight nod. "Pleasure to meet you, hope you're enjoying the free drink." Ryan cast his eyes back towards the bar as Kohaku started explaining what Yoshi truly meant in Japanese. Ryan wasn't trying to be disrespectful, but when he was truly listening, he tended to not focus on anything in particular. He gave a nod as Kohaku finished telling the small story, to which Ryan gave a curious 'huh' in response, although he was more disappointed that it wasn't directly related to a giant green frog dinosaur. At heart, he was ok with admitting he was slightly childish.

When Kohaku asked him how long he had been in Japan, stopping only to order some water, Ryan swirled the sake a bit. Part of him wanted to offer the guy another drink, and the other part of him realized that he was already being quite generous with Konatsu's money. "Not long, I arrived yesterday and got situated in a hotel. Mainly here for..." Ryan pondered what to say, not a true fan of lying especially when it was to cover up his own inadequacies. "An interesting experience." Ryan decided to go with that instead, not necessarily lying but not revealing too much about himself.

"I'm assuming that you were born in Japan? Or at least you've been here for some time? Anything interesting you can tell me about this place? Maybe something fun to do while I'm in the country slash city?"

Haku listened to Ryan's spoken words and to the emotions vibrating through their invisible connection. It always became that much easier to understand a charge when speaking with them, understanding how they thought and how they lived. Haku nodded as Ryan explained why he was in the country, leaving out the real reason for his unschedualed visit. Kohaku didn't push, instead taking a sip of his water before answering Ryan's questios.

"Yes, quiet some time." Haku answered, imagening that Ryan didn't expect 'quite some time' to mean several centuries. "There are many things to do in Tokyo." Haku added with another nod, "Museums, art shows, movies, festivals... In fact there is a Cherry blossom festival tomorrow at Kan'ei-ji temple in Ueno park. To my mind, there would be no better Japanese event to attend than such a festival."

Haku pulled a napkin across the bar and then a pen from his pocket. In quick strokes the guardian wrote both the kanji and then translation on the napkin before sliding it towards his charge, "The address, if you choose to go."

Ryan took the napkin, looking at the Kanji and translation and once again wondering how basically an art piece turned into a language before giving a nod and slipping it into the inside pocket of his jacket. "I'll take your word for it." Ryan took another shot of sake from his bottle, the alcohol flowing smoothly now that it was starting to hit him a bit harder. He questioned if he should stop soon, but remembered he had a ride picking him up later, so he considered the risk worth it. “If you don’t mind me asking though, what does all the Cherry Blossom festival entail? Is it all about small fruits and flowers?”

"Not fruit." Haku corrected with a shake of his head, "The festivals come from old customs of watching the sakura blossom." Kohaku took a final sip of his beer before placing the bottle on the bar in front of him, "I have always found Hanami a calming experience."

A glance behind him pulled Kohaku's attention to the table of grim reapers and lone guardian angel. Though he didn't want to leave his American charge so soon, he could sense that he would be needed throughout the night. Perhaps getting back to the tiny apartment he shared with Minako and having a small nap before being forced out into the night again would be beneficial. Turning back to Ryan, Haku offered the American a small nod,

"Thank you again for the drink. I should get back to my friends. Perhaps we might bump into each other at the festival tomorrow." Though no smile flickered across his face, his tone was decidely friendlier than his usual depressed tone. Of course, regardless of whether Ryan saw Kohaku again, Kohaku would definitley be seeing Ryan again, though perhaps in varying forms.

With a final nod in thanks, Haku pushed out of his seat and made his way back to his table, mentally planning on sliding into bed as soon as he got home.

Ryan nodded along, listening to Kohaku's explanation to the very uncultured American who honestly couldn't remember the last time he had been to a fair of any kind. In some regards he wondered if he was truly a workaholic. So basically some kind of flower blossoming festival, could be an interesting sight to see regardless of his investment in such things. With the explaination out of the way, Kohaku finished his beer and looked back towards his friends, stating how he should get back to them. Ryan gave a nodded and raised his glass slightly. "Not a problem, thanks for the info and have a great night." Ryan stated with a beaming smile as he turned back towards the bar to fill his cup once more. Halfway through pouring it, he realized that there wasn't anything left in the bottle, to which he gave a small tap on the counter to get Yoshi's attention. "Yoshi, running a bit dry here, you mind?"

Ryan didn't think that one fully translated for the bartender, but he seemed to get the gist of it as he reached underneath the bar and pulled out another bottle of sake. As Ryan started going at he second bottle at this point, the legitimate concern over whether he truly was an alcoholic flashed briefly before being overtaken by a sense of bravado, a small unconscious shrug escaping his features before diving headlong into the fresh batch of sake.




A rather well dressed and uniformed man entered the bar a few hours later, his attire not at all suited to the establishment as he took off his cap and held it under the crutch of his arm. He gave a quick look around the bar, spotting the man he had come to grab at the counter. Nick wandered over to him, putting a hand lightly on his shoulder. "Master Prosker? I'm here to take you to your hotel." A quick inspection found Ryan to be passed out, or very close to it on the counter of the bar. Nick looked over to Yoshi who simply gave a disapproving shake of his head before Nick gave a slight bow and switched to Japanese. "I apologize for Master Prosker's behaviour." Yoshi gave a slight shrug as he cleaned a few glasses.

"Not really a problem, he didn't cause any trouble here. I did start passing him water later on, but I don't think he noticed." Nick gave a small laugh.

"In his state, I doubt he would. Master Konatsu appreciates you taking care of him." Nick pulled out a credit card from his breast pocket, to which Yoshi presented a machine to run it through. It took a couple of seconds before the transaction completed and Yoshi gave a gruff nod.

"Alright, all paid up, now do you mind getting the starting to snore American off of my bar?" Nick gave a nod and a slight bow once again.

"Of course." Nick grabbed Ryan's shoulder and gave it a firm shake. "Master Prosker? You need to wake up, I have to get you to your hotel." It took a couple more shakes for Ryan to actually stir, his eyes half open as he nearly swiped three empty bottles of sake to the ground.

"Hm? Nick? What are you...uhhh...what....what?" Nick pulled Ryan off the stool, slipping himself underneath Ryan's arm as he replaced his hat on his head.

"It's alright Master Prosker, we just have to get you somewhere where your sleep won't be disturbed." Nick practically carried him out the door and to the waiting limo, struggling to open the car door with the American nearly limp on his side.

"Did you know that bartender is named after Yoshi...from Mario?" Ryan stated, his speech slurred but still somewhat cognative.

"I do not believe he was named after that creature sir." Nick stated, nearly flopping Ryan into the back, letting him lay down on the seat before closing the door and heading to the driver's seat. Upon entry, Ryan was already halfway through another sentence.

"-an't believe it. There was...Sake...beer. Ummm...Do they...I could go for some wings." Nick adjusted his rearview mirror quickly, giving a quick look back.

"If you can stay awake for more than two minutes, I will get you some wings Master Prosker." Nick stated, to which he was replied with silence. A quick inspection showcased a very passed out Ryan sleeping away in the back of the limo. Nick gave a quick shake of the head before buckling up and slowly pulling away from the bar towards their destination.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Cara Chung Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Aera Lee Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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#, as written by Cloud
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━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━
CHAPTER TWO: THE FESTIVAL
━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

Date: Early afternoon, 2nd April, 2017
Location: Kan'ei-ji Temple, Ueno Park
Tokyo City, Japan

━━━━━━━━━


xxx A sea of delicate pink blossoms fluttered in the faint spring breeze, a show of nature’s intoxicating beauty revealed for the world to see. Lanes of sakura trees turned the pavement below a rosy hue, while in other places the falling flowers had carpeted the grass in blushing blooms. The Hanami custom was old, a traditional indulgence by the people of Japan and those world-wide to walk beneath spring’s buds and admire the astounding beauty of it.

xxx In Ueno park, lanterns hang on invisible ropes between the trees, arching across lanes and illuminating pathways during the nightly yozakura. Yet, even during the day, as wisps of cloud pass overhead, the lanterns only add to the festive feel. Kan'ei-ji temple is a Tendai Buddist temple within the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. It sits in the park, a beautiful array of centuries old architecture within the modern city.

xxx Fires from various civil wars and earthquakes have seen the original facades diminished, yet still the temple stands tall and proud. The five-storied pagoda and the Ueno Tōshō-gū shrine still remain as gems of the original temple, beautiful relics of a time gone past. Today, as the midday sun passes overhead, the temple grounds were thriving with activity. Cherry blossoms coloured the grounds pink, while the laughter of young children brought smiles to many who passed by. Stalls set up in one of the courtyards offered delectable treats; yakitori, grilled chicken on sticks; takoyaki, pancake balls with tempting chunks of octopus in the middle; watamep, cotton candy in all colours and styles, and more.

xxx The temple’s festivities were set to continue throughout the evening and into the early night, when the lanterns strung up would offer soft illumination. However, as early afternoon struck the festival was well into full swing. Some families take to the lawns beneath the cherry blossom trees, where picnic blankets allow them to stretch out and admire the blooming petals, while others content themselves with pulling young children around to the games set up for those who require a bit more entertainment. Also present are young couples keen to take in the romance of the sakura blossoms, their hands intertwined as they whispered endearments to each other while walking beneath the blooms.

xxx It was one of these couples that caught Lucia’s gaze as she stepped off the bustling street and followed one small, winding path towards the heart of the temple. They were young, late teens or early twenties, and yet their devotion to each other was clear. As the goblin passed the love-struck couple, she caught a glimpse of their future, intertwined for decades, their hands still clinging together as they age from young and fresh to gnarled and old. Luciana smiled softly, a hint of sadness perhaps beneath the warmth in her eyes. She had once been in love, a foolish affair, yet her story had not ended in happiness as this couple’s story would.

xxx She bypassed the devoted couple with a quick side-step, sending them a hint of good luck as she passed. Ahead, the path opened out into the main courtyard of the temple, a busy thoroughfare of festival seekers. The smell of freshly cooked food and sweets drifted between the crowd, tempting any with a nose or hint of hunger towards the wooden stalls edging the courtyard. Overhead, unlit lanterns and streamers added further decoration, even as the cherry blossoms were the real draw card.

xxx “I’ll take two yakitori, please.” Lucia intoned in flawless Japanese, nodding in thanks as her money was exchanged for the chicken sticks. The dress hugging her body floated around her knees slightly as a faint breeze snaked through the crush of people, and Lucia followed it beneath the tall pagoda and around to where a lawn of grass unfurled beneath a stand of sakura trees. A free root offered the perfect seat, and Lucia tucked her feet to the side as she sat beneath a shower of rosy petals, her gaze drawn upwards to the light blossoms blushing softly against the sky.


xxx “Beautiful” The goblin thought to herself, a feeling of peace settling across her shoulders. She left her mind wander to the twists of the day before, her thoughts less tense than the swirling cacophony of feelings that had assaulted her the previous night. Following her departure from Paola’s apartment, Lucia had spent a long time deciding on her next course of action. Her first instinct was to leave, to run from the city where she had seen and touched her ex-lover. Yet, the goblin couldn’t shake the sense that she should be closer to Paola, if only to investigate the mysterious way the girl had called her.

xxx To stay, or to go? It was the decision that had taunted her throughout the night, and though the goblin hadn’t landed on a conclusive answer, here she sat, still in Tokyo. The tough choice of the previous night seemed all the easier to face now, beneath the sakura. She would stay, would face Cassius if ever they came upon each other again. She was not the same young, naïve woman she had been as a mortal, she was stronger now, more sure of herself. She could handle it. Yet, even as her resolution settled, she remembered the feel of his hand on hers, the colours of his eyes, feel of his breath against her skin…

xxx A flicker in the corner of her eye dragged Lucia’s thoughts from the fox and she turned, searching the crowd of blossom admirers for the movement. Her brows moved into a frown as soft green eyes fell on the dark figure of a ghost. He looked as out of place amongst the pale blossoms as a bear would look in a colony of honey bees. Taller than the natives around him, and dressed in regal, medieval garb that was only now worn in theatrical plays, he was a man out of time and out of place. Though, it wasn’t the unsettling wrongness of his appearance that had Lucia pushing herself to her feet in a second. No, it was the familiarity of his face, the way the deceased soul’s gaze seemed to pin Lucia to the spot, as if he had sought her out from the beyond.

xxx The goblin took a step forward, a jolt of fear racing down her spine. “It cannot be…” She thought, wishing the distance were less so that she could be more sure, even as she wished to be miles away and safe from the soul’s eerie glare. She strained her eyes, even as a crowd of young Japanese temporarily blocked her view. Lucia took another half step forward, only to stop as the crowd passed and where the ghost had been, was nothing. He was gone, like a mirage teasing the goblin with images of her past. Had it been him? Or had the events of the previous day caused her to remember the less fortunate parts of her mortal life?

xxx Luciana took a shuddering breath, her hand instinctively flying to her neck where her fingers traced across the jewels that clung to her skin. She remembered the necklace tightening, the memory of the hand that had ended her life stark in her mind as she stared at the empty spot where he had just stood. But no, that was centuries ago. No ghost could last for that long. She forced her shoulders to relax, let her legs buckle as she regained her seat. It had been her mind, nothing else. She was safe.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
"Life isn’t meant to always be painless, sometimes the greatest triumphs come from the distressing and oppressive situations."




Something was exploding, alarms were blaring, lights from several dozen spotlights were searching for something. Survivors? Who could possibly survive from such a situation? Was he in a warzone? Did his helicopter crash? Eyes opened to reveal a blurry realization that hit him so slowly elderly people passed his brain by on the street. Ryan gripped his head, feeling the slight amount of sweat on his brow as the pounding at the front of his skull only seemed to intensify. His hand reached up to the shelf directly above him, where an alarm clock blared with all the intensity of several thousand screaming babies. Ryan pushed his eyes shut, opening them at this point nearly as painful as being shot as he felt several objects pushed off the headrest before finally finding the alarm and slamming his palm down on the large ‘snooze’ button on the top. Ryan sat up slowly, the entire ordeal causing an involuntary gag reflex out of him as he pressed both of his palms into his eyes, the coolness of his skin giving him a momentary relief from the oppressive nature that was one of the worst hangovers he had experienced since his induction into the corps.

With a sigh, Ryan opened his eyes slowly to limit the pain of having them try to focus on any one thing, and revealed to himself his rather nice but small hotel room. The walls painted a deep maroon color, calming if somewhat an odd choice to him. Aside from that, his room was fairly bare. A single dresser and closet for his clothes, a separate bathroom from the rest of the unit and a mirror that acted as the door to the closet. How did he end up here? He didn’t remember walking home...in fact he didn’t remember too much of anything last night. He looked down to see that he was still wearing his clothes from the day previous, save for his jacket, shoes and bandana. A quick look over at the nightstand sitting beside him revealed a singular note on it written in English. Ryan grabbed it, feeling like something a dog just threw up on the carpet, and winced as he forced himself to focus on the letters on the page. In more than a few words, Nick had written the note and explained that he had returned Ryan to the hotel. Ryan gave a sigh, crumpling the note and throwing it back onto the nightstand. Nick, the saviour of pathetic drunks everywhere. Ryan sat on his bed for a good few minutes, long enough for his alarm to trigger once more earning more than a few choice words from the man as he desperately found the way to turn the damn thing off.

What was he supposed to do today? It was too early to go visit the hospital, not that he really wanted to endure that particular meeting in his current condition, but he couldn’t force himself to back to sleep or do nothing. Wasn’t there something said about a festival somewhere? Something about blossoms? Flowers? Something interesting anyways, possibly a good way to pass the time if nothing else. Plus there would be people there, and that was always a bonus. Even now, the inkling that Ryan had to be around another person was starting to creep up on him the more he thought about it. He gave himself a slap to get the feeling out, and was rewarded by feeling such a sharp pain shoot through his forehead that it nearly made him cry out. First thing was first though: Shower, throwup, eggs, throwup, run, throwup then maybe the festival...if he was still standing by that point.


Ueno Park

Home to the Cherry Blossom festival, according to the notes written on the napkin in Ryan’s hand. He looked around at everything, taking in the subtle beauty of the place with the eyes of a foreigner used to screaming crowds of loud drunks, spoiled children and exhausted parents. Admittedly, Ryan would never claim to be a cultured person, but this was something he could definitely get used to. There were plenty of people around to make him feel comfortable while the peaceful atmosphere was a complete change of pace from his usual way of life. He slipped the note back into his pockets, just so he would remember how to get back to the hotel from here. He could just use the GPS on his phone, but much of his training with the airforce actually had him rely on his own wits to figure out where things were in case his gear was somehow destroyed. Machines break, eyes don’t. Whoever said that never had a knife poke through their iris. Well I got dark on myself. Ryan thought as he continued looking around at everything. It was then he noticed how out of place he looked when compared to the average festival goers.

It seemed that a change of clothes was required for attendance, as everyone appeared to be wearing extravagant robes. Kimonos if he remembered correctly, in accordance with their ancient culture...right? Ryan pulled out his phone, muttering to himself that he really should have a better internet plan in this case as he tried to pull up a list of taboo things to do at the Cherry Blossom festival. Hopefully one of them wasn’t to show up hungover wearing jeans, a t-shirt and leather jacket complete with ballcap. He stood there for quite some time, his phone’s internet not taking the hint to just hurry up for once without the aid of free wifi. He finally gave up after a few minutes of watching the screen stuck halfway through loading. He pocketed his phone and resigned himself to the fact that he might just end up making a fool of himself once more, with luck it would garner a few laughs from people. Retrieving the dictionary from his pocket, he started flipping through pages and did his best to memorize some words as he walked past the decorations and other festival goers.

A few people stared at him as he went, which was something he fully expected at this point. He paid them no mind as he went to the ‘most common phrases’ section of the book, memorizing the pronunciation for things such as ‘Thank you’, ‘please’ and coincidentally the differences between the honorifics. San was the same as saying Mr. or Mrs, while chan indicated a level of friendliness that was not to be used by strangers, mainly used by and on women names, while Kun was the same for men. Ryan suddenly found himself missing the very simple ‘Mrs and Mr’ format of the english language as the honorifics continued on, leading him to believe sooner than later he would somehow mess up in a very embarrassing manner.

He closed the book for a moment, surveying his surroundings and finding a food stall of sorts. While he wasn’t overly hungry, he was curious as to what kind of food they served here and wandered up to the stall. Immediately the man who appeared to be way too happy to be working at a stall in a festival beamed a smile at him. The glare from his white teeth was nearly enough to make the headache start all over again as he spouted off Japanese at an incredible pace akin to english rappers if Ryan were to draw parallels. Ryan just held up a hand softly, brought the book forward and held it up, hoping that would be enough for the man to realize that he didn’t necessarily speak the language. Luckily he seemed to get the message but it didn’t appear that he spoke English, so he was content with just remaining silent.

Ryan looked over the items for a moment, before motioning to the items. “Ichi to ichi” Ryan stated, not wanting to waste the man’s time in looking up the kanjo for the items in question. The vendor seemed to understand this as he handed the food to Ryan.

“Ichi yakitori to ichi takoyaki.” Ryan pulled out his wallet, looking over at the price and fumbling with the coins for a moment before handing the payment over. “Arigatō.” The vendor stated while Ryan gave a nod of appreciation, heading out into the festival unknown. Just by looking at the food he could tell one was basically chicken on a stick mixed with vegetables, essentially a kabob. The other seemed to be some sort of battered ball, but it smelled sweet so maybe a type of pancake batter? Either way, Ryan had somewhat of a sweet tooth on him, so he decided to munch on the takoyaki first. A quick chomp later revealed something to Ryan that made his eyes go wide for a moment. What the hell was in the middle of this thing? It was...was it squid? Octopus? I could look this shit up if my phone’s internet didn’t suck the literal joy out of my life! Regardless, it wasn’t bad so Ryan continued on his little trek through the festival, taking in the sights and just generally enjoying the atmosphere. It was a nice thing to be around, considering the circumstances of his being here, not to mention the fact that he would have to try and visit his father in the hospital again tonight. Hopefully Mr. Konatsu would be around to bring the tension down a little, but with his upcoming retirement and running a global corporation, he was already doing more than Ryan expected him to do.

In the middle of his thoughts, he caught something out of the corner of his eye. A woman who appeared to be talking to herself as she travelled through the festival, an odd sight for certain regardless of where you were in the world. Maybe she has a bluetooth in her other ear or something.
Ryan thought, just about to disregard it when he noticed that she seemed to be struck by something. A revelation or some sort of deep thought, once again he was going to ignore it and continue on, but she started to stumble and ended up supporting herself on a tree. Most people would just continue on at this point, deeming it not their problem, but that was either Ryan’s greatest trait or worst fault in that he couldn’t resist to aid people if he felt they were in need of help. He threw his stick from the takoyaki into the garbage can, pulling out the dictionary once more and flipping through the pages to figure out a proper phrase to ask the woman in her language. He quickly wiped his hand on his pants trying to make sure they were at least somewhat clean as he approached her. She seemed deadset on staring into the crowd of people in front of her, a few of whom seemed to be taking a picture. He stopped just beside her, waving a hand slightly in front of her face as she leaned against the tree. “Anata wa...how do I-...day...jobudeska?*” He asked, hoping that he didn’t butcher the word as he flipped through the book a couple times more to figure out some more phrases that might help with the situation, his one hand awkwardly holding the yakitori as he did so.

*Are you ok ma'am?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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Look this way, look this way, look this way, please... Perhaps if his eyes met hers, their interlocked gazes would break open the floodgates, and spill into her memories all the empty spaces, all the unanswered questions. See me. See me. See me and tell me. Tell me who you are and why-

The bark was biting into her palm now, but her palms were rough from years of hands on work, and her mind was so distracted that no pain was felt. No physical pain, anyhow. Emotional trauma? That was another story.

“Anata wa...how do I-...day...jobudeska?”

Butchered was the Japanese, but even if it hadn't been, Ikeda wouldn't have quite understood. She was too distracted, to focused on the familiar face. Too focused the flurry of memories stirring in her mind, crawling up through the dirt, unwanted and unwelcome, but nonetheless aggressive in their resurrection.

It took her a moment to compute, and a moment longer to acknowledge the stranger. When she did, she blinked for a second, gathering her senses. Loose strands of raven shuddered about her face as she shook away at the thoughts, managing to quieten them enough to reply in Japanese.

"Uh... yeah. Thank you. I just-" She paused, cocking her lips in a sheepish smile, gesturing vaguely to her head. "Dizzy spell."

Standing up straighter, she fought the wobbliness of her legs, demanding them to obey despite the lightness still present in her head.

Looking up at the stranger, it was easy enough to tell that he wasn't from around here. It wasn't the broken Japanese that had told her that, nor even his obviously caucasian features (Tokyo was quite the hotspot of diversity, so that in itself was nothing new) but rather the air he carried. Young, stumbling. Noble but unsure. Perhaps it was just her gut feeling, but the young man struck her as a fish out of water, either new in town or visiting. For that reason, and his earlier act of compassion, Ikeda opted to risk embarrassing herself by offering an introduction in her own rusty English, which was not terrible, but far from polished.

"Thank you, for your concern. Just a drizzy spell, that's all." 'Drizzy'? That can't be right. Shit. Oh, well, he'll get what I mean.

Offering her hand, she introduced herself, forcing herself to ignore the urge to glance back at the tall man in the crowd. The familiar face.

"My name is Shiori. Ikeda Shiori."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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#, as written by Verix
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                      Seok Areum
                      FOX SPIRIT | 1392 | #d24038


                      Once, Areum had considered herself to be a main character in a story she now knows is much larger herself. She thought of a world where she was content to live an eternity without consequence, and it had worked — for while. As time slowly creeped forward however her thoughts became hazy and distorted to the point where she could no longer recognize her dreams.

                      It had been the for best; truly, it had.

                      From a distance Areum could make out the silhouette of a man marching toward the group with a desperation she could only recognize as hope. Her being wept for him knowing he was far too tender — despite what he may say — for a fox that stole the hearts of others.

                      He loved with passion than seemed to burn brighter than the sun, temping even fate itself. Areum was not blind. She knew that even if he stole the incarnations of his lovers, a part of him always disappeared with them as well ( she saw it in the brief moments; distant stares, unspoken words, ghost-like movements ) — whisked away into a dreamless eternity.

                      She knew not why he left his soul open for such tragedy, but it frustrated her to no end regardless.

                      The boy with blonde curly hair looked at Cassius with wonder as the Guardian Angel began to ramble, and quickly he shoved phone in their direction asking for a picture with her friend. She chuckled, and took it as the woman was too preoccupied admiring the fox’s beauty all the while melting over his sweet appreciation. Areum regarded the scene with mild interest as the fox looked at the angel with a familiar fondness. ’Who had she been?’

                      Within seconds however, Luciana pulled the boy away with a hiss, a warning, and a promise to the other Goblin before storming away. Areum froze, suddenly all too aware of the monk beside her and the reason for her intrusion with the group.

                      Jiangyu was dressed in traditional clothing and wore a look of well hidden disdain on his face. Apparently her ignorance of his presence did not go unnoticed and was met with irritation. Oh, how she missed him and his silent ego.

                      Areum had been drawn to him early on in her immortal life, seeking comfort from a world she knew to be cruel. Though she left her religious views behind, her attachment for the man did not cease in fact it seemed to only grow. Perhaps it was time spent apart that made every encounter with him feel somehow new.

                      She knew it was irresponsible, but being far apart she then began to bath him in a holy light meant for Gods, not humans. Upon reconciliation however her vision of Jiangyu always returned to where it needed to be and her friendly treatment of him continued. Areum gave him what few others could say they’ve received in earnest: her genuine friendship.

                      “Are you not happy to see me?” she spoke with a forced lightness to contrast with the sudden departure of her business partner. Areum hoped at least they would still work together. Luciana was far too serious not to mess with. Briefly she wondered if her friend would be foolish enough to follow her, but forgot the ideas just as quickly as it came. “I thought after years of separation you would have something to say.”

                      Areum ignored the fact she had been the one to see him first, but it was always hard to admit defeat even for her friends.

                      She looked at the two unknown faces before her and smiled, “Forgive me, I’ve been impolite, and to such beautiful people as well. You may call me Areum, may I ask for your names?” The last few words were sounded out strangely for her gaze landed upon a pale figure hidden among the trees.

                      Her grip on the candle bag tightened and she pursed her lips to slow her breathing. It did not move, It did not breath, it simply watched. Areum’s heart began to uncomfortably press against her chest and threatened to give out at any possible second. She was not scared, God no, she was far too old to be frightened of a phantom; but what stole her breath was the knowledge that she knew him from her past.

                      Just like any other time she remembered him, an unfamiliar sense of self-reproach engulfed her entire being. She hated it, hated it more than she hated feeling powerless. Before her own mind could squeeze the life out of her she quickly tore her gaze away with much difficulty. If she didn’t see him she didn’t need to acknowledge his existence.

                      As a final push for normalcy she began to survey her surroundings to distract her from the uneasy feeling growing within her mind. A familiar face did the trick.

                      Shiori looked so unsure of herself, staring at the space where Jiangyu had been. Areum did not know why she had been trying to gain his attention, and at the moment she did not particularly care, but she was grateful for something to preoccupy her time with.

                      Without a second to spare Areum said, “I believe my acquaintance was trying to get your attention,” she said while motioning to Shiori, and took notice of the man talking to her. In a softer voice she said, “Do you have an idea as to why?”

                      With a nervous glance she quickly brought her attention to where the ghost had been, and sighed in relief when she saw no sign of it. Perhaps she had imagined it.

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Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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ImageRyan Prosker \|/ Ikeda ShioriImage




Well Ryan’s translation and Japanese butchery went about as well as one could expect, since the woman appeared to get the gist of what he was trying to convey anyways. Now that he got a decent look at the woman, he could see that she wasn’t one hundred percent Japanese, or at least that wasn’t his impression. She reminded him of American Japanese population back home. Mixed heritage perhaps? He was overanalyzing things and had to mentally stop himself from doing so. Luckily his thoughts and maybe overlong staring were interrupted by the woman finally responded to his horribly mangled question. Unfortunately, she answered in her understandably flawless Japanese, leaving Ryan staring at her with one of the most clueless looks of his relatively short life. It took a moment for him to start flipping through the book, mouthing the words she stated in hopes that he would stumble upon something that would help him in figuring out what she had just said. That was it, when he got the time he was downloading a translator app onto his phone. This book thing was murder on just about every facet of his life. Luckily she either must have realized this or simply switched languages on a whim as she answered him in broken English a second time around.

It wasn’t the worst English he had ever heard spoken, even if she did mispronounce one of the words, but Ryan wasn’t going to say anything about it. After all, he had come up to her with the basic equivalent of slobber dribbling down his chin in the language department. Instead, he simply gave a smile as she introduced herself and held out a hand. Ryan took the hand in a firm shake, opting to stay within the English language if she could understand him. It would be easier that way, at least he thought so, since he wouldn’t have to flip through a book every time he wanted to say a word. “Nice to meet you, I’m Ryan Prosker.” Ryan stated, before giving her a bit more of a once over. A dizzy spell shouldn’t be common, especially in one as young as herself. “Are you sure you’re ok? I can go get you some water, food, help maybe?”

Ryan Prosker… This guy has got to be American, Shiori offered the stranger a smile and a nod.

”No, it’s okay. I’m fine, really.”

How could I not be? All I’m suffering from are traumatic flashbacks of a time that left me with the magical ability to see the ghosts of the recently deceased… Fine. Just dandy.

She hadn’t spoken, but regardless, Shiori was shocked by herself. Had she always been this bitter? Perhaps she had. Perhaps she’d just grown accustomed to her own undeviating resentfulness.

Perhaps.

Acerbity aside, Shiori spoke in a friendly tone to the stranger -Ryan Prosker, the undoubtedly American stranger- as she tried her best to speak in a language that she was only semi-familiar with.

”Is it your first time here?”

She nodded her head slightly in vague gesture towards the cherry blossom trees.

Ryan gave a somewhat sheepish smile, coughing slightly as he tried to bypass the very obvious ‘I’m a tourist’ vibe he was giving. It would have helped if he knew someone in this country that could actually spend some time with him during the day, but such was the way of life. ”Yeah, not exactly good at fitting into a place where the culture is practically alien to me.” Ryan stated, taking a small bite out of his yakitori trying to shake off the ‘fish out of water’ vibe he was getting even as Ikeda was attempting to converse in English. He felt somewhat guilty, practically forcing her into a language she was not fluent in in order to have a conversation. ”Been wandering around, butchering your language and trying some new things to get a better feel for your country and the festival.”

Shiori had to smirk at that, for even from the brief glimpse into the man’s attempt at Japanese, ‘butchering’ had proved a fairly adequate description.

In a way, this could work for him. He didn’t like the idea of simply leaving her, because he had seen one too many proud people decline help when they could really use it because they were simply too independent for their own good. ”To be honest, if you’re willing, I could use someone to guide me around and translate some of the harder words for me.” It was a bit forward maybe, but sometimes it was best to simply go for something rather than attempt to beat around the bush.

Shiori paused, slightly surprised by the forwardness of the request. Or perhaps impressed, knowing that she, in his position, would take years of aimless wandering before deigning to ask for help.

She glanced back at the man that had thrown her, and met his gaze as a breath caught in her throat. But then he looked away just as quickly, and the alien pull in her chest twinged once more. No familiarity from his end… she couldn’t decide if she was relieved or disappointed.

Or maybe she was just going mad.

Regardless, she forced herself to bring her attention back to the young tourist in front of her, and nodded with as friendly a smile as she could muster considering her tumultuous state.

”Buy me a yakitori, and you’ve got yourself a deal.”

”Done.” Ryan stated without any sort of hesitation. He slipped the dictionary back into his jacket pocket and beckoned her to follow him. He continued munching on what was left of his own yakitori. He lead them both back to the stall where he had originally gotten the food to begin with, rapidly finishing his own food before ordering a couple more from the man who didn’t bother saying anything in Japanese, remembering Ryan from just a few short moments ago. As he handed over the sticks, Ryan passed him the money and gave one of them to Ikeda. ”Are there many festivals like this here in Tokyo?” Ryan asked, launching right into the questions. He was hoping to keep the answers to something she would easily know without any research, but as a side objective he was also trying to keep her talking and somewhat focused. Even if he didn’t know the cause or particulars about whatever that little episode was, he could at least try to make the most out of meeting someone new.

His attempt at small talk neither irritated nor shocked Shiori, despite the fact that she was wont to avoid it every other day. She hated when people thought it necessary to fill every silence with useless babble for the sake of the noise. And yet, she also acknowledged exactly how damn antisocial and morbid that sounded, even in her head. Christ, I need to lighten up.

Not to mention that he wasn’t awkward about it. And his conversation seemed to stem from legitimate curiosity as opposed to forced interest. Plus, it actually felt quite nice, this feeling of a potential friendship blooming, so she replied in earnest.

”Oh, yeah. We’ve got a thing for festivals.” She thought for a moment, ”You’ve got the Kanda Festival, or the Sanja Festival, if you’re the rager type.” She smiled, tucking her hands into her pockets as she glanced over at him, ”They both happen in May, though. Are you sticking around until then?”

”I might be.” Ryan stated as they simply started walking in a direction, munching on their respective foods. ”I’m on leave from my job for the month, with the promise of extension if I need it.” Ryan stated, not bothering to go into specifics. He had just met this woman, there was no need to explain his slightly complicated reason for even being in this country. Shiori, in turn, nodded slowly, resisting the urge to interrupt as to acquire about his particular job. Perhaps it was the cop in her, but she was prone to turning conversations into interrogations if she wasn’t trying otherwise.

”But regardless, I love social affairs, so if I’m around for either or both chances are I’ll show up at some point.” Ryan said with a genuine smile on his face, taking in the Cherry Blossom trees with a somewhat serene feeling about him. He hadn’t spent much time feeling ‘at peace’ lately, so this was a nice change of pace.

”So were you born in Tokyo then?” Ryan asked, getting straight to the point before raising his hands slightly in an almost ‘surrendering’ posture. ”I don’t mean to pry, but if you’ll forgive my bluntness, you don’t look one hundred percent Japanese.”

Unoffended, Shiori shrugged blithely, ”No, you’re not prying. I was born in Kyoto; Japanese mom, white dad.” She smiled nonchalantly as she took a bite into her yakitori, ”He went back to the US before I was born. He knows I exist, but we haven’t met.”

Maybe a blessing in disguise, you never know, Ryan thought to himself as they continued walking through the festival. ”Ah, back to the land of the ‘Free and the Brave’” Ryan commented dryly, doing his best air quotes with his fingers while holding onto his food. He gave a smile at his almost inside joke, knowing full well the stereotype of Americans felt around the world. He sort of wanted to continue down this line of questioning, see if she ever bothered to try and get into contact with him, but felt it was a bit too personal for him to ask, seeing as they just met. Instead, he decided to switch the topic slightly. ”So you’ve lived here your whole life then? Tell me, what’s a native of Kyoto do to keep herself afloat? What’s your business?” Ryan made slightly exaggerated hand movements to signify he was trying to be light about this, but he did have an issue where he didn’t realize he had entered ‘personal’ territory until it was too late. Hopefully he wasn’t pushing into topics she didn’t want to talk about or coming across as the creepy dude who asked too many questions...Oh man, now that was going to be in the back of his mind the rest of the trip.

And yet, it soon became clear that the question didn’t bother Shiori in the slightest. In fact, she seemed to puff up with pride as she replied. Nothing too obvious, just a slight rise of the chin, a small roll of the shoulders, a little curve to her lips. Body language aside, however, she responded in a casual tone, ”I’m a cop, actually.”

”No shit? Does that mean I shouldn’t reveal where I’ve stashed all the cocaine I have?” Ryan smirked a bit, taking yet another bite from his stick food. ”But seriously, that’s pretty damn cool...you must have some cop stories, so c’mon, dish!” Like a little boy in a toy store, Ryan’s face lit up with more than a little excitement and anticipation. He lived for learning about people, and being a cop opened the conversation path to so many different and new experiences that he couldn’t help but relish the opportunity to pick the memories of someone who had lived through them.

”Well, I think so.” His compliments only bolstered her job-related pride, but she waved her hand modestly, a touch embarrassed. ”Stories?” She thought for a moment, before smiling. ”Well, there is one I’m pretty proud o-”

Her words caught in her throat as she caught sight of a girl a small way ahead of them. Or, at least, she looked like a girl. Shiori, however, knew better. As the ghost raised her bloody hand to an unsuspecting festival-goers chest, he staggered and fell, much to the ghost’s apparent delight.

One day. Can I just have one day without some malevolent spirit fucking it up?

She glanced back to Ryan, ”One sec-,” before running over to where the man had collapsed. Kneeling down beside him, she reached for his shoulder, speaking once again in her more comfortable tongue, ”Sir, are you alright?”

A shadow in her peripheral vision, and she looked up. Dragging her tongue across her bloody fingers, the ghost grinned at her, eyes wide behind the streaks of raven that fell across her pale face. Meanwhile, Shiori’s own expression wasn’t fearful, instead, it was darkened by a cold hostility.
But the soul wasn’t deterred. If anything, it was riveted.

Things took a turn for the unexpectedly worse as someone in front of them seemed to drop from what Ryan could only think was a heart attack. He was clutching his chest and collapsed to the ground, almost instinctually Shiori had rushed to the man’s aid and Ryan felt himself pulled towards him as well. Despite the general chatter having switched back to the native Japanese, Ryan got a feel for what was being said. ‘Are you alright?’, ‘How are you feeling?’, etc etc etc. Ryan didn’t bother to ask anything, knowing that with Shiori there, a cop none the less, that the situation was well in hand without him butting in. So there he stood, like a lump on a log unsure as to what exactly he was supposed to be doing, but was surprised when he looked back down at Shiori and the man who collapsed to find her staring at him with an icy glare cold enough enough to melt the sun.
”Uhhhhh...did I do something wrong?” Ryan asked, genuinely perplexed as to this rapid shift in her demeanor towards him.

Shiori did not break away from the soul’s stare, and as the soul’s smile widened, she flexed her jaw in frustration. As Ryan’s voice broke the balloon of silence between the two, the soul’s eyes dragged towards to mortal. The malevolence in her (its?) gaze was palpable, and she looked him over a moment before glimpsing back to Shiori. In an act of apparent spice, she reached a pale, sharp-fingered hand towards Ryan.

Moving at a speed she didn’t realize she had, Shiori was on her feet and pushing Ryan out of the way. As she stepped forward, she felt an icy hand drag itself across her back, and almost immediately afterwards, a scorching agony broke out between her shoulderblades. Gritting her teeth, she managed to stay on her feet, and wrapped her fingers around Ryan’s wrist.

”We need to go. Now.”